What to know about brand-name vs generic contact lenses

advanced eye care in Tulsa
August 5, 2021
James Ashford

People feel confident about generic options at the pharmacy nowadays. Your trusted family doctor and your local pharmacist will tell you that they are less expensive and just as effective as brand-name medications. But generic and brand-name can be very different in terms of their inactive ingredients, and there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. This is also true about contact lenses when receiving eye care in Tulsa OK and beyond.

The trial pair your doctor gave you in the office isn’t always the same thing you get in the store. This overview is here to help you make the right choice for generic versus brand-name contact lenses.

Current contact lens technology

There are many types of contact lenses as defined by the FDA. Many come in a private label version:

  • Soft contacts are made of flexible plastic that is oxygen permeable. Newer versions made with silicone hydrogels allow more oxygen to pass through and may be better for the eye. The CDC says that 90% of contact wearers today wear soft lenses.
  • Rigid gas-permeable lenses are more durable than soft lenses and more resistant to buildup. They also usually provide clearer vision.
  • Extended wear lenses are (usually) soft lenses intended to be worn for as long as 30 days without removal. The practitioner decides the length of wear based on the patient’s eyes.
  • Disposable or replacement scheduled contact lenses are usually intended to be removed and disposed of every day. Some soft lenses are called disposable but are actually extended-wear scheduled replacement lenses.
  • Toric contact lenses correct astigmatism. They can be soft or rigid, extended-wear or disposable.

How lenses can differ

Because contact lenses are medical devices, they must go through rigorous testing, meet strict standards and have a prescription. Most critically, the way that lens manufacturers measure the curve and thickness of the lens can vary. This changes how the lens fits on your eye.

Even if lenses are of the same type, a lens from one manufacturer can fit and work very differently than a lens from another. Some lenses may even be less comfortable than others even though they have the same prescription, diameter and base curve because the materials or measurements used are different.

Some private label, or “named” generic brands, such as Walmart’s Equate brand, are now available. Still, the substantive differences between brands of contacts mean that most prescriptions will continue to show a brand name rather than a private label name. (However, when you’re getting eye care in Tulsa OK or elsewhere, your doctor can offer you the option of buying the generic equivalent if they write it on the prescription.)

Because of these fundamental differences, the FDA requires that a prescription specify a brand name or manufacturer. It also prohibits the dispenser from changing the lens prescribed.

Brand name vs. generic – What should you choose?

The simple answer is to listen to your doctor. They have more knowledge about your specific situation, lifestyle and available options.

For example, your doctor may give you a sample pair of brand-name lenses to use at home to make sure they work well for you. Once you try the lenses, you might be satisfied with them. However, let’s say you’re concerned about the cost. You then go out to buy a generic lens instead of the brand-name lens.

This generic lens may have some of the differences described above. The manufacturer might have measured it differently, so it doesn’t fit or correct your vision the same way as the trial pair did. It might also use different materials that irritate your eye, or it might react poorly to the cleaning solutions you use. Ultimately, if you end up going back to the original name-brand lens, you’ve wasted more money buying generic than buying a brand name in the first place.

Worried about the cost of eye care in Tulsa OK or elsewhere?

Vision Care Direct of Oklahoma offers a way to afford high-quality eye care in Tulsa (and other cities) as well as the name-brand lenses prescribed by your doctor. We offer a pre-paid vision plan with negotiated rates for visits to your doctor as well as savings on lenses and frames.

You shouldn’t feel that you have to cut corners to get comprehensive eye care, whether that be exams or lenses. Vision Care Direct offers a variety of plan designs that can make eye care affordable for everyone. It also gives you freedom of choice to get the lens or frame you want wherever you want – you don’t have to go to a certain eyeglass store or vision center. Because we were founded and are owned by doctors, Vision Care Direct’s focus is on eye health, not on profit.

To learn more about how we can help you benefit from eye care in Tulsa OK and beyond, contact us today.

Not sure where to get started with recommending self-funded plans? Vision Care Direct of Oklahoma is pre-paid plan provider with and extensive of specialists who deliver eye care in Tulsa and nationwide with excellent value for employers and plan recipients.

Find out more about our self-funded plans and other flexible options.

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