By Sarah McGoldrick
The contact lens industry has undergone significant growth and change over the past year. New developments in technology
as well as a need to compete with laser eye surgery has led researchers to create lenses that not only help individuals see, but are more comfortable and durable.
Wearers continue to seek out the technology as they move away from wearing traditional glasses in the hopes of finding something more functional for day-to-day life.
According to Euromonitor International, Canada saw a marked jump in the number of people purchasing contact lenses as a result of higher rates of myopia among young adults.
Four companies accounted for 80 per cent of total sales including Johnson & Johnson leading with the Acuvue line of contacts.
CooperVision came in second the Proclear, ClearSight and Biofinity brands of lenses. Bausch & Lomb came in second with its PureVision and Soft Lens brands. CIBA was the fourth overall leader in sales with Air Optix, FreshLook and Sailies.
Online sales are also drawing a huge increase in contact lens purchases as wearers need only point and click to get a prescription filled.
This has forced traditional contact lens companies to continue to strive for more appealing and wearable products.
“We have been looking at the contact lens drop out rate and trying to figure out what makes them drop out,” said Denise Lougheed, Vision Care Professional Relations Manager for Bausch & Lomb.
She notes the major reason people continue to leave contact lenses as a eyecare option is discomfort.
More than 49 per cent of individuals choose to go back to wearing glasses because they are unable to successfully wear contact lenses. This is due to a number of factors such as not understanding how to care for them, wearing them in bed and eye irritation.
She says foreign objects and protein build up can cause irritation and pain and contribute to poor vision.
Lougheed says Bausch & Lomb have made a significant effort to determine if it is the lenses or the solution that makes the difference as to whether people change their contact lens habits.
Once patients were properly educated in the use of solutions, Lougheed said the contact lens retention rate rose considerably.
“It’s compliance in using the solution,” she said noting that when patients used a contact solution as directed, such as Bio-True multipurpose solution for two weeks as directed, the positive results were greatly increased.
“Eight out of 10 users would continue to use their lenses,” she said. “It really is important that patients follow the directions.”
People are looking for convenience in all aspects of their lives without giving up what they enjoy most. This is evident in the continued increase in sales of disposable lenses.
Over the last four quarters, the disposable contact lens industry has seen tremendous growth in Canada by more than 14 per cent.
Products such as 1-Day Acuvue Moist and 1-Day Acuvue TruEye, the world’s first daily disposable silicone hydrogel lens, have outpaced the category.
The success of soft toric contact lenses also continues to be a bright spot. Research confirms that nearly half of all patients requiring vision correction have clinically significant levels of astigmatism in at least one eye.
“Today’s toric lenses offer clear, stable vision and are suitable for even low astigmats, patients who until recently were offered only spherical equivalent lenses,” said Dave Brown, President, Johnson & Johnson Vision Care, Americas. “As a result of these developments, the percentage of astigmats in contact lenses is growing.”
Johnson said the contact lens industry is meeting the needs of a highly discerning client who no longer want to be chained to traditional eyewear and are looking for something they can easily put in and not have to worry if they go missing.
“Practitioners need to go the extra step to ensure patients are happy. Enthusiastic and happy patients lead to more referrals
and a successful practice,” said Brown.
He added company research shows that nine-in-ten doctors believe that their contact lens patients associate their contact lens wear experience with their opinion of them as a doctor and that patients’ product experience is either “extremely” or “very important” to the likelihood of them returning to the office for their next eye exam.
Patients have demonstrated a desire to wear and keep wearing contact lenses.
Brown says the growing number of options aimed at increasing comfort and improving vision, there continues to be opportunity and great potential to grow this market.
“We are seeing greater penetration of daily disposable lenses, particularly among young new wearers. Practitioners are more comfortable fitting younger patients in contact lenses, and daily disposables present a safe and healthy option for these wearers,” he said.
As patients age, they still want to be able to use contact lenses rather than have to go back to glasses.
Brown says patients have indicated to their eyecare providers that they are willing to pay for effective technology to ensure they can continue to wear contacts longer.
“Middle-aged patients have shown that they are willing to pay for greater comfort and convenience, and so premium daily disposable lenses, such as 1-Day Acuvue TruEye are finding a ready market in this group,” said Brown.
One of the greatest challenges for the contact lens industry remains Presbyopia. This is something Brown says continues to be an area of great promise for contact lens research.
He notes good designs exist, fitting presbyopic patients in multifocal lenses still requires additional chair time and, often, some sort of visual compromise between near and distance vision.
“The market opportunity is immense, and manufacturers continue to look for better solutions for the millions of presbyopes who would like to continue to wear contact lenses,” he said.