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LCQ12: Regulation for contact lenses

     Following is a question by the Dr Hon Joseph Lee and a written reply by the Secretary for Food and Health, Dr York Chow, in the Legislative Council today (October 27):


     At present, contact lenses for vision correction are classified under the law as a medical device and must be prescribed and supplied on prescription by qualified registered professionals, e.g. optometrists or ophthalmologists etc., whereas the sale of non-vision-correction contact lenses (e.g. most of the popular cosmetic contact lenses available on the market) is not covered by the legislation.  Nevertheless, using non-vision-correction contact lenses is equally risky, thus it is necessary to conduct a thorough examination of the curvature of the users' eyeballs and the users themselves must know the ways to cleanse and the technique to wear such lenses, or else they may contract eye diseases such as keratitis.  Some optometrists have pointed out that inadequate regulation of non-vision-correction contact lenses by the Government at present directly threatens the optical health of the public, who may also neglect the risks of using such lenses as a result.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) whether the authorities have information on the number of cases in the past three years in which members of the public contracted eye diseases as a result of using non-vision-correction contact lenses and subsequently sought medical treatment from the Hospital Authority; if so, among these cases, of the number of cases which involved contact lenses that were not supplied by qualified registered professionals on prescription; if not, whether the authorities will consider keeping such statistics in future;

(b) whether the Government has information on the number of cases in the past three years in which persons who were not registered professionals supplied contact lenses for vision correction on prescription; if so, whether prosecutions had been instituted, and of the details; if not, the reasons for that;

(c) given that in reply to a question raised by a Member of this Council on January 31, 2007, the former Secretary for Health, Welfare and Food said that legislation would be introduced to classify cosmetic contact lenses as medical devices, of the progress of the work in this regard; and

(d) whether the Government will step up public education and publicity on correct usage of contact lenses, so as to enhance the public's knowledge of using such lenses; if it will, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?



(a) The numbers of cases in the past three years in which people sought treatment at the ophthalmology clinics of the Hospital Authority (HA) for microbial keratitis caused by contact lenses are as follows:

Year               No. of cases
2008                   80
2009                   146
2010 (as at June)      67

     The HA has not categorised the cases into those of non-vision-correction contact lenses and those of contact lenses for vision correction.  The Department of Health (DH) has not received report of cases in which members of the public contracted eye diseases as a result of using non-vision-correction contact lenses.

(b)  Under the Supplementary Medical Professions Ordinance (Cap 359), only qualified registered professionals are allowed to prescribe contact lenses or supply such lenses (including contact lenses for vision correction) on prescription.  Over the past three years, the DH has not received complaints about unregistered professionals selling contact lenses for vision correction.

(c) The Administration is taking steps to establish statutory regulation of medical devices and will consult the Health Services Panel of the Legislative Council shortly.  The proposed regulatory approach includes empowering the Director of Health to, having taken into account the local situation and the views of relevant stakeholders, decide to regulate certain specific products such as non-vision-correction contact lenses in order to protect public health.

(d) To enhance public education on correct usage of contact lenses, the DH has produced and published on its website information leaflets on usage of contact lenses, including "What is Contact Lens?" and "Tips on Using Contact Lens Solution".  Members of the public are reminded to strictly follow the instructions of qualified registered optometrists and ophthalmologists and to use and take care of their lenses properly when they use contact lenses.  Besides, the DH also plans to step up publicity and education specifically for high-risk groups (e.g. the youths) and during certain festivals (e.g. Halloween and Christmas).

Ends/Wednesday, October 27, 2010
Issued at HKT 16:36


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