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Be Wary of the Lasik Vision Institute

Stephen Barrett, M.D.

The Lasik Vision Institute (LVI), which operates facilities in in many states, advertises $299-per-eye and $499-per-eye rates for Lasik surgery. But regulatory actions and media investigations suggest that this number is intended to lure patients into consultations at which much higher prices are quoted. LVI is subsidiary of Musa Holdings, Inc., of Lake Worth, Florida, which also operates Eyeglass World and has real estate investments [1]. The company is owned by three brothers: Max Musa (chief executive), Marco Musa (president); and Marc Andrea Musa (vice president). [2]

Eyeglass World operates a chain of retail outlets where customers can have their eyes examined by an allegedly independent, licensed optometrist and purchase eyeglasses and corrective lenses. The optometrists lease space in the company's outlets. In 2001, Eyeglass World's Web site stated that it operated 58 outlets in 22 states and that its affiliate company, the Lasik Vision Institute (LVI), operated 31 outpatient laser vision correction centers in 18 states [3]. At that time, LVI was called the Laser Vision Institute and the centers were serviced by a total of 11 ophthalmologists (eye surgeons). Most of the centers had same address as an Eyeglass World store. Today the Web sites list 59 Eyeglass World outlets in 24 states and more than 100 LVI centers.

In 2001, the Florida Attorney General announced that Eyeglass World would pay $500,000 and adopt an arms-length relationship with its affiliated optometrists to settle allegations of unlawful marketing practices [4]. According to the Attorney General's complaint:

While admitting no wrongdoing, Eyeglass World agreed to:

In March 2003, LVI signed an FTC consent agreement to settle charges that the company failed to substantiate claims that its Lasik surgery services eliminate the need for glasses and contacts for life, eliminate the need for reading glasses, and eliminate the need for bifocals. The FTC's complaint also charged that LVI had falsely claimed that consumers would receive a free consultation to determine their candidacy for Lasik. Instead, after an initial meeting with an LVI representative during which the representative quoted a price for the procedure based on their preferred treatment, LVI required consumers to pay a $300 deposit before they were told of the risks associated with the surgery, or if they were eligible candidates for the Lasik procedure. According to the FTC, the $300 deposit was nonrefundable if, after the initial consultation, the consumers elected not to have the surgery. The FTC alleges that only $200 of the deposit was returned to consumers who elected to undergo the surgery but subsequently were rejected for medical reasons. The consent order prohibits unsubstantiated claims that Lasik surgery services or any other refractive surgery services: (a) eliminate the need for glasses and contacts for life; (b) eliminate the need for reading glasses; or c) eliminate the need for bifocals. The order also prohibits LVI from misrepresenting: (a) that consumers will receive a free consultation that determines their candidacy for Lasik or any other refractive surgery services; (b) the cost to consumers to have their candidacy for such refractive surgery services determined; or (c) the information consumers will receive during a consultation for refractive surgery services [5].

There is good reason to believe that the low fees advertised by LVI are difficult or impossible to get and that misrepresentations are common during LVI's "evaluation" process.

The Better Business Bureau of West Florida reports that the Lasik Vision Institute of Tampa, Florida, has an "unsatisfactory record . . . due to unanswered complaints." [16] A small Yahoo group exists to share thoughts about Eyeglass World.

When done appropriately, refractive surgey can be very helpful. For further information on this topic, click here.

References

  1. Action News exposes Lasik Institute president's lavish lifestyle. ABC Action News, July 23, 2003.
  2. Borbely M. Lasik surgery sales tactics raise eyebrows. Washington Post, Sept 4, 2001.
  3. Careers. Laser Institute Web site, accessed, Feb 12, 2001.
  4. Butterworth B. Eyeglass World to pay $500,000, revise practices under agreement. Florida Attorney General news release, Feb 10, 2001.
  5. Federal Trade Commission stops allegedly misleading representations for lasik eye surgery: Future claims of benefits, performance, efficacy, and safety must be substantiated. FTC news release, March 26, 2003.
  6. Sight for sale. KVBC-TV, Feb 27-29, March 1, 2003.
  7. Robertson K. Low-cost eye surgery back in town. American City Business Journals, Oct 21, 2002.
  8. Action News investigates Lasik Vision Institute after complaints. ABC Action News, July 21, 2003.
  9. Trying to get LVI's advertised rates for Lasik? Good luck. ABC Action News, July 22, 2003.
  10. Target 5 finds flaws in ads for LASIK surgery: Few Customers appear to receive. WLWT-TV, Cincinnati, Sept 25, 2003.
  11. Newberry A. Email to Stephen Barrett, M.D. Oct 16, 2003.
  12. Class action lawsuit filed by injured Lasik eye surgery patients. ABC Action News, Aug 5, 2003
  13. Majka et al v. The Laser Vision Institute, Case No: 03 7210 Div. H, Thirteenth Circuit, in and for Hillsborough County, Florida Civil Division.
  14. Doctor blows the whistle on Lasik eye surgery chain. ABC Action News, Nov 10, 2003.
  15. Low-cost LASIK surgery: Part I, Nov 6, 2003.
  16. Low-cost LASIK surgery: Part II, Nov 10, 2003.
  17. Better Business Bureau of West Florida. Accessed October 19, 2003.

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This article was revised on December 7, 2003.