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Be Wary of the Lasik Vision
Stephen Barrett, M.D.
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 . The company is owned by three
brothers: Max Musa (chief executive), Marco Musa (president);
and Marc Andrea Musa (vice president). 
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 . 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 . According to
the Attorney General's complaint:
- Optometrists leasing space in Eyeglass
World outlets were pressured by the company to issue unnecessary
prescriptions for glasses and contact lenses and limit time spent
with each patient.
- The company's goal was to maximize
the number of patients seen and ensure that every person who
had an eye exam bought corrective lenses.
- State law prohibits a corporation that
leases office space to an optometrist from interfering with their
medical practice. In addition to violating that statute, Eyeglass
- Engaged in the sale of outdated, used
and non-sterile contact lenses.
- Sold diagnostic lenses and solution
starter kits provided free of charge by the manufacturer.
- Misrepresented itself as an approved
provider for a certain health insurance plan.
- Intentionally misquoted prices over
the telephone, engaged in bait and switch advertising and failed
to post its no-refund policy at the point of sale.
- Failed to have a licensed optician
on premises at all times and failed to have proper optical equipment
or perform tests required by the FDA to determine product safety.
While admitting no wrongdoing, Eyeglass
World agreed to:
- Provide for consumer restitution and
pay the costs of the state's investigation.
- Revise its leases with optometrists
to ensure that it does not exert improper influence over their
- Implement a corporate ethics program
that will include live instruction and creation of a corporate
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 .
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"
- In February 2002, KVBC-TV (Las Vegas)
reported that (a) the commissions earned by LVI "patient
counselors" depended on how many patients they signed up
per week; (b) prospective patients were told that they are basically
good candidates for the operation; (c) a nonrefundable $100 deposit
was required to see an ophthalmologist for definitive advice;
(d) a reporter with a degenerative eye disease (who did not meet
standard criteria for lasik surgery) paid $300 for further evaluation
by an optometrist who said she was suitable; and (e) a reporter
who was an ideal candidate for lasik was told that if she paid
more than $299 she would get better follow-up care .
- In October 2002, according to a South
Florida Business Journal report, LVI's national operations
director said that the $299 price included three months of postoperative
care, but the average LVI customer paid close to $1,800 an eye,
depending on his or her prescription and if any additional services
are added .
- In July 2003, ABC Action News aired
a three-part investigation during which they interviewed former
patients and sent an investigator with a hidden camera to see
what price is actually quoted. The reporter was told that had
special problems and quoted $1,799 per eye by a "counselor"
who had no medical background and did not examine his eyes. The
reporter was also told he could not see the surgeon for a consultation
unless he paid a $100 deposit. Neither the office manager nor
Marco Musa would state how many people qualify for the $299 rate.
The report included the story of six patients who developed serious
eye infections after operations at the LVI in Tampa. Each of
the patients had paid "thousands of dollars" for the
- In September 2003, an investigative
team in Cincinnati aired a report describing how a producer visited
a local LVI clinic with a hidden camera to see whether the $299
price was quoted. The report described how the producer was told
that (a) the surgeon was out-of-town, (b) the price would be
$899 per eye, and (c) a $100 deposit was required or the price
would go away .
- Quackwatch has received a complaint
from a man who was quoted $299 per eye at a Florida Eyeglass
World store. He described how he paid a $100 deposit but was
unable to get an appointment for the surgery as promised. When
he asked for a refund, he was told that the deposit was nonrefundable
because it paid for the eye exam .
- In August 2003, ABC Action News reported
that a class action suit on behalf of patients who were injured
or subjected to a bait-and-switch sales process. The lawyer handling
the case says he has been unable to find anyone who was offered
the $299 rate [12,13].
- In November 2003, ABC Action News reported
that a former LVI national medical director has left in disgust
because LVI was pushing its counselors to recommend punctal plugs
to everyone who underwent the surgery. Such plugs, which prevent
tears from being drained from the corner of the eye, should only
be prescribed to patients who develop dry eyes after surgery,
but LVI offered $500 bonuses to counselors who persuaded 50%
or more of all patients having surgery to buy them. The report
stated that the former medical director was so concerned that
warned LVI officials last year that "the pre-operative insertion
of punctal plugs in persons with normal eyes is fraudulent"
and that operating on patients who have the plugs could cause
a serious infection .
- In November 2003, WGAL-TV, Lancaster,
Pennsylvania, broadcast a 2-part series that included comments
by eye surgeon Steven Vale, M.D., who said he had performed about
15,000 procedures for LVI and knew of only one that was done
for $299 [15,16].
The Better Business Bureau of West Florida
reports that the Lasik Vision Institute of Tampa, Florida, has
an "unsatisfactory record . . . due to unanswered complaints."
 A small Yahoo
group exists to share thoughts about
When done appropriately, refractive surgey
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This article was revised
on December 7, 2003.
News exposes Lasik Institute president's lavish lifestyle. ABC Action News, July 23, 2003.
- Borbely M. Lasik
surgery sales tactics raise eyebrows.
Washington Post, Sept 4, 2001.
- Careers. Laser Institute Web site, accessed, Feb 12,
- Butterworth B. Eyeglass World to pay
$500,000, revise practices under agreement. Florida Attorney
General news release, Feb 10, 2001.
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.
for sale. KVBC-TV, Feb 27-29, March
- Robertson K. Low-cost
eye surgery back in town. American
City Business Journals, Oct 21, 2002.
News investigates Lasik Vision Institute after complaints. ABC Action News, July 21, 2003.
to get LVI's advertised rates for Lasik? Good luck.
ABC Action News, July 22, 2003.
5 finds flaws in ads for LASIK surgery: Few Customers appear
to receive. WLWT-TV, Cincinnati, Sept
- Newberry A. Email to Stephen Barrett,
M.D. Oct 16, 2003.
action lawsuit filed by injured Lasik eye surgery patients. ABC Action News, Aug 5, 2003
- Majka et al v. The Laser
Vision Institute, Case No: 03 7210
Div. H, Thirteenth Circuit, in and for Hillsborough County, Florida
blows the whistle on Lasik eye surgery chain.
ABC Action News, Nov 10, 2003.
LASIK surgery: Part I, Nov 6, 2003.
LASIK surgery: Part II, Nov 10, 2003.
Business Bureau of West Florida. Accessed
October 19, 2003.