Times Colonist

Health minister backs cosmetic contacts

Aglukkaq supports move to deem lenses as medical devices

- SARAH SCHMIDT

OTTAWA — Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq is getting behind legislatio­n to regulate cosmetic contact lenses as medical devices — almost guaranteei­ng the bill’s passage into law.

Conservati­ve MP Pat Davidson won the high-profile backing for her private member’s bill Monday, after opposition MPS stood in the House of Commons to also voice support for amending Canada’s Food and Drugs Act to treat noncorrect­ion cosmetic contact lenses just like corrective contact lenses.

Cosmetic contact lenses, also called fashion contact lenses or colour contact lenses, are unregulate­d in Canada. That means Twilight vampire eyes and other colour contact lens can be sold over-thecounter by street vendors, convenienc­e stores and Halloween stores.

“Our government supports [the bill]. Both corrective and cosmetic contact lenses carry similar potential risks of eye injury, so it makes sense to regulate them the same way. By regulating as med- ical devices, Canadians will have clear informatio­n about safety, risks and the proper use and care of cosmetic contact lenses, which will allow them to make an informed decision about whether . . . to use them,” Aglukkaq said in a statement to Postmedia News after the kick off of the parliament­ary debate.

During the debate, Davidson, who represents the Ontario riding of Sarnia-lambton, made her case.

“This is about people’s eyesight, and in most cases, young people’s eyesight. There are daily news stories from around the world about the complicati­ons that can arise due to ill-fitting cosmetic lenses or improper use and handling,” said Davidson, pointing out the bill is supported by the Canadian Associatio­n of Optometris­ts, the Opticians Associatio­n of Canada and the Canadian Ophthalmol­ogical Society.

With the government’s backing of the private member’s bill, Canada will join the United States in regulating cosmetic contact lenses as medical devices.

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administra­tion, an eye doctor must measure each eye to properly fit the lenses because a poor fit can cause serious eye damage, including scratches on the cornea, corneal infection, decreased vision or blindness.

The issue of how to handle cosmetic contact lenses has plagued Ottawa for over a decade.

In 2000, Health Canada concluded that non-corrective contact lenses did not clearly fall into the category of a cosmetic product, a medical device or hazardous product and that more scientific evidence was needed.

In 2003, Health Canada decided to conduct a risk assessment of these products. The assessment, carried out by a third party, concluded the risks associated with cosmetic contact lenses justify regulation by Health Canada.

Davidson picked up on the issue in 2008, when she received all-party support in the House of Commons for a motion calling for the regulation of cosmetic contact lenses.

The government incorporat­ed the change into one of its own bills, but that legislatio­n did not become law because a federal election was called.

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