Confusion about the classification of fluorescein strips has caused significant supply problems in Europe after they were classified as medicines in Switzerland.
The European Council of Optometry and Optics (ECOO) reported major issues after Swiss competent authority Meddec followed non-binding Meddev guidance to classify fluorescent ophthalmic strips for diagnostic purposes as medicinal products last year.
It has led to confusion among manufacturers in Switzerland and other countries, some of which had now ceased production, ECOO stated.
Armin Duddek, president of ECOO, said: 'We have recently met with the European Commission to set out the practical difficulties that reclassification of fluorescein strips causes for our sector.
'We were reassured that this was not the intended consequence and that our views would be put to the Expert Group in October 2012. In the meantime the advice from ECOO is that practitioners can and should continue to use fluorescein to assess their patients in accordance with applicable national legislation.'
Fluorescein strips, a key tool for fitting contact lenses and to assess ocular health, were described as an integral part of an eye examination and of the work of an eye care professional.
Helmer Schweizer, president of contact lens body Euromcontact, said: 'Classification of fluorescein strips as medicinal products is an unnecessary restriction that adds significantly to the cost of production and approval before placing them on the market.
'While we fully favour appropriate regulation of medical devices, we are not aware of evidence to restrict their use by optometrists and opticians in the community.'
It was estimated that five million fluorescein strips were used each year in Europe for purposes including fittings, assessing the integrity of the anterior segment of the eye and in Goldmann applanation tonometry to assess intraocular pressure.