Indian Optical Trade Wins Big Time

Indian Optical Trade Wins Big Time

Last year the optical trade was shocked when DCGI announced the move to include optical products under Medical Devices Rule 2017.

On September 3, 2020, the Drug Controller General India (DCGI) issued a proposed list of medical devices in the ophthalmic category. This list included spectacles, lenses, trial frames, among many other things that are currently sold by opticians or eyewear retailers. The news came as a shocker. Once passed, this would mean that opticians would require to register their business with DCGI. Surely, the eyewear industry was not going to accept this. There was an uproar, eyewear retailers were complaining. After all, those who understood the business could foresee the challenges. If mandated, this rule would mean every optician, manufacturer and brand owner would have to register their business with the DCGI.

However, instead of a random or individual reaction, the optical trade community decided to carefully deliberate over the announcement. Those with in-depth knowledge and extensive experience were skeptical of the move and voiced their opinion accordingly. Some were in favour of the move – given the fact that a lot of the developed countries around the globe encourage this practice. But others, many of the stalwarts of the trade were against the move. The urgent need of the hour was to get the Government of India to hear out the concerns of the optical trade community.

Optical associations across the country set the wheels in motion by inviting members of the trade to share their views. One of them, the Optical Association of India (OAI) under the leadership of Mr Subhash Bansal is said to have raised the concern directly with the Health Ministry and DCGI.

The result as we have it today – eyewear products were denotified. The announcement led to opticians heaving a sigh of relief.

But this heroic feat was not a random shot, it was a calculated move where the stalwarts of the trade came forward to fight for the cause of the opticians of the country.

How it all started
Looking back at how it all started, soon after the announcement, Optical Association of India sent out representations politely voicing the concerns of the industry against the mandate to the Ministry of Health and the DCGI. The persistent follow-ups finally paid off – DCGI granted the request for a virtual meeting. This meeting was extremely crucial as it was the chance for the industry to list out their concerns and convince the government officials to revoke the rule. The onus of representing the optical trade community of India was put on the shoulders of Mr. Abhinav Maharwal, Educational Secretary of OAI.

The winning points
Here are some excerpts of the pointers that were used to convince the DCGI and the government bodies:
Spectacles and other similar optical products are used externally. As of date, there are no recorded cases of any visual damage or harm from any of these devices. This indicates that there is really no need to put optical devices in the medical category.
The Indian optical trade is currently at the cusp of revival – given the pandemic and the competition from China. If the Government of India passes such a law, it would only add to the concerns of the opticians inhibiting the revival of the trade.
Most importantly, the government authorities were made aware of the important role that the eyewear retailers played in delivering affordable vision correction to the people of the country. Adding more formalities to the way the business is done may affect this ability.
Even for contact lenses, including them in the list of medical equipment would mean only pharmacists could dispense them. However, pharmacists do not have the training or the set-up. Moreover, they also lack experience unlike the eyewear retailers.

Mr. Abhinav Maharwal indeed did a good job at convincing the government authorities at the meeting using the above points. The authorities acknowledged the concerns raised by the Indian optical trade community and assured of solutions to address their worries. Soon enough, the announcement came along and the optical products are no longer included in the Medical Devices Rule 2017. Some of the key products that are no longer included are:

· Spectacle frames

· Spectacle lenses

· Spectacles

· Tinted lenses

· Trial frame

· Trial lens

· Trial box

It is indeed a joyous occasion for the industry as one of its major concerns is finally addressed. This gives more impetus to the morale of the eyewear retailers who are slowly but surely working towards adapting to the post pandemic normal.

Commenting on the move, Mr. Siraj Bolar, Editor-in-Chief, VisionPlus Magazine said, “The announcement is a welcome news for the optical trade community in our country. It was heartening to see the methodical approach adopted by the industry. Instead of random comments, the concerns were represented by the optical associations. This further helped the cause. Lastly, I would also like to congratulate the team at the Optical Association of India for the way it represented the case and got a verdict in favour of the optical trade.”

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