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Next Level Vision – Contact Lens Makers

The contact lens industry is looking beyond eye care and examining lifestyle changes to design products that provide patients with the best possible vision, according to panelists at the Global Contact Lens Forum here at Vision Expo West.

Moderator S. Barry Eiden, OD, FAAO, challenged representatives from the major contact lens to share how each of their companies is working to keep patients in contact lenses, grow the industry and provide better than 20/20 vision.

Jill Saxon, OD, FAAO, senior director of professional strategy, Bausch + Lomb, said the industry has looked at areas such as contrast sensitivity, functional vision, driving at night and looking at smartphones and needs to look outside of itself for other technologies that have not yet been considered.

“If we fail to look beyond, we’re going to fall behind,” she said.

Louise Sclafani, OD, FAAO, vice president, professional affairs, SynergEyes, said the industry has learned much from astronomy through the development of the Hubble telescope, applying technology to extended depth of focus lenses.

“SynergEyes retained the rights from the Brien Holden Vision Institute for extended depth of focus designs, which we are starting to work with,” she said. “This is where we’re going with regards to beyond 20/20.”

Lifestyle needs play an important role in gauging success, Michele L. Andrews, OD, senior director of professional and academic affairs, CooperVision, said.

“We’ve discovered a need in the marketplace for people who are on digital devices all day long,” she said. “It’s a part of our everyday life at every age. Our focus on bringing the Biofinity Energys lens to the marketplace was to address that lifestyle need. We’re going to continue to look at lifestyle space to make sure we can go beyond just 20/20.”

Eiden told attendees that most optometrists were taught to “set realistic expectations.”

“That means the products don’t work as well as they need to,” he said. “We need to ensure patients can have excellent vision without having to worry about realistic expectations.”

Kevin Roe, OD, FAAO, director, optometry and professional organizations, U.S. Vision Care, Alcon, said, “I truly believe one of the greatest obstacles we have to seeing more patients successfully fit in multifocal contact lenses is our poor expectations of what lenses can do. We’ve grown up with disappointment.

“We are at a point now where you can fit a very high percentage of presbyopes in multifocal lenses that don’t just meet expectations,” he continued. “Open your mind to the possibility that these can work.”

Sclafani said, “At SynergEyes, we’ve had a multifocal center near lens for years. In January we launched the center distance multifocal lens. We took in the concept of personalization. We’ve had Tangible Hydra-PEG on the surface of all of our lenses, providing better comfort.”

“I vehemently disagree with setting expectations,” Saxon said. “We challenge ourselves as a manufacturer and continue to challenge you in your offices to get these multifocal candidates into contact lenses and take advantage of the opportunity to continue to grow and fit those patients.”

“We look at the demographics and know that contact lens sales don’t mirror that,” Andrews added. “We are either unwilling to prescribe or patients are unwilling to accept. The population is aging and they want to stay in contact lenses. Our near demands are changing, and the target is moving.”

She said there is also opportunity for growth in toric lenses.

“Seventy percent of patients have astigmatism, but only 50% are being corrected for it,” she said.

Studies show that patients drop out of contact lens wear due to feelings of discomfort, Andrews said.

“When we look at the dropout rate, 65% of people who drop out have 0.75 D of astigmatism,” she continued. “We are leaving people undercorrected, which leads to poor vision and poor comfort.”

“Why are we not fitting 0.75 D of cylinder?” Sclafani asked. “It’s complacency. In general, if patients are satisfied, so is the doctor. Patients say their contacts are fine, but their glasses are better. Why shouldn’t they be equal?”

Roe said Alcon is “paying a great deal of attention” to minimize rotational issues with toric lenses.

“Clarity of vision is so dependent on tear film,” he said.

Comfort remains a primary culprit in contact lens dropout rates not changing for decades, Eiden said.

Andrews said CooperVision is focused on third-generation silicon hydrogel materials, but practitioners need to ensure patients are comfortable handling the lenses in the first place.

“A recent study showed 25% of those who are going to drop out do so in the first 3 months due to handling,” she said. “We sometimes forget what it feels like to wear a contact lens for the first time and that panic at night when you can’t get it out.”

“Edge design, center thickness, ballasting, surface treatments – where they fit into your practice or for your patients is up to you in certain cases and up to the patient’s needs,” Saxon said. “Bausch has had the opportunity to partner with Tangible on surface treatments to make patients feel more comfortable; you have the option to make choices. We need to think about what we’re doing for patients tomorrow that is different than what we’re doing now. Think about the whole patient and how the tears interact with a contact lens.”

She noted that Bausch + Lomb’s Zenlens has an indication for ocular surface disease.

Roe said that Alcon has moved its over-the-counter family of products into its vision care area.

“It’s a huge imperative to incorporate ocular surface wellness into the contact lens area,” he said.

New Systane Complete combines the best of Systane Balance and Systane Ultra into one drop, “that works tremendously well to prepare the ocular surface for contact lens wear.” – by Nancy Hemphill, ELS, FAAO

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