CANDID CONVERSATIONS BETWEEN VCPN’S ED DE GENNARO AND LEADING OPTICAL EXECUTIVES ABOUT THEIR PRODUCT STRATEGIES.
Dave Brown, President of VISTAKON® Americas (jnjvisioncare.com), has overall responsibility for the VISTAKON U.S. and Canadian businesses. In 2006, Dave joined Johnson & Johnson Vision Care as Vice President, World Wide Vision Care Franchise. During his tenure, he led the franchise’s efforts to bring to market innovative products including ACUVUE® OASYS™ for PRESBYOPIA and ACUVUE OASYS for ASTIGMATISM. Here Dave talks about the increased popularity of contact lenses and their future growth.
Ed De Gennaro: Contact lens sales grew for both optical retailers and independent offices in 2009, while the overall ophthalmic market declined. Why are contact lens sales up in a recession?
Dave Brown: Contact lenses contribute greatly to people’s perceived quality of life and are an excellent vision option. Current wearers want to stay in contacts so when new products with genuine patient benefits are released, they want these new options. There are also better materials and designs on the market. In addition, products like astigmatic and multifocal lenses are growing and these “specialty products” command a higher price.
EDG: How are contact lens patients valuable to today’s practitioners?
DB: A study sponsored by the London Business School found that on average a contact lens patient is 1.5 times more profitable than a spectacle lens patient, and most contact wearers also purchase spectacles. In addition, patients who wear both eyeglasses and contacts are more loyal and 60% are likely to make a dual purchase from their eyecare practitioner.
EDG: Does VISTAKON develop any special promotions?
DB: We always look at rebates as a powerful tool for doctors. This past year we focused on new wearer rebates and a very successful ACUVUE OASYS brand rebate. In addition to incorporating rebates to ensure pa-tients have the opportunity to purchase contact lenses, we also emphasized the annual purchase of contacts. This tends to be the one interaction the doctor has with a pa-tient over a 12-month period to sell a full annual supply. That’s something we and many companies are highlighting.
EDG: How can multifocal sales become mainstream?
DB: One major factor is going to be people’s desire to stay in contact lenses as they reach presbyopia. About one-third of adults who currently wear only spectacles say they are interested in trying (or returning to) contact lens wear. That means we have an entire generation of people who have worn contacts, loved the benefits, and want to stay in contacts—so consumers have to drive demand for this product.
Because we recognized fitting time was a major issue for presbyopic contacts, VISTAKON developed a robust, clinically validated fit procedure to help doctors select the logical first lens pair and quickly determine if it is the optimal choice for the patient. We’ll come to an office, provide guidance and consultation in fitting, and explain if you fit the lenses as demonstrated, these are the results you can expect.
EDG: What’s the next big growth area for contact lenses?
DB: One good area is kids. Obviously, it’s up to the optometrist and parents to determine the right age of entry, but there is a growing body of research that shows contacts provide collateral benefits to children beyond simply correcting vision, such as improving how children feel about their physical appearance, acceptance among friends, and ability to play sports. Astigmatism continues to represent opportunities as well.
We’re also excited about the disposable contact lens marketplace. That’s one reason why we recently launched 1-DAY ACUVUE MOIST™ in a 90-pack. Many eyecare practitioners and pa-tients favor daily disposables because of their health and convenience benefits, but cost often factors into a patient’s decision to choose a one-day lens. Now, patients have the convenience of a single-use lens, while enjoying the benefits of LACREON™ technology and the value of a 90-pack.
EDG: What’s the future of disposable lenses?
DB: One of the things we’re learning about is the issue of overwear by consumers, and I believe it potentially has been heightened a bit by the economic situation. Data suggests contacts prescribed for longer replacement intervals can lead to more extreme overwear and, of course, that could lead to undesirable clinical effects.
Our research indicates more than half of frequent replacement contact wearers surveyed said they’re not compliant with their prescribed replacement schedule, whether it’s a two-week lens or a monthly lens.
Daily disposables have the potential to change all this. Doctors play a big role here in communicating to patients about the correct wear schedule and how important it is to use fresh lenses regularly to avoid complications and enhance comfort. The more patients understand about this subject, the greater growth this segment will experience.