PRIVATE LABEL OR BRAND NAME LENSES?

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CLEARi lenses are available online at MyLensClub.com.
Many lens manufacturers recognize there is a market for private label lenses. While the technology may be the same as branded lenses, the name will be different, and the price lower.
With the increased interest in private label lenses from surfacing laboratories, eyecare professionals (ECPs) have a lot of questions about them. Here are a number that I hear from my colleagues.

Q: I have patients who want the lenses they see advertised in major media or while doing online research on manufacturers’ Web sites. They may already be wearing a conventional design brand name lens. Why would I use private label lenses for them?

A: If they want branded lenses, by all means give them what they want, or what brands you feel comfortable using. Keep in mind that brands have some major advantages. They represent years of research, prototype testing, and ensuring that the lens design meets the high standards of the brand. They also invest in product brand promotion, and lots of practitioner and product support. But, there are some other issues to consider when you are at the fitting table.

One major issue is that while they may want the branded lenses they see advertised, they may be hampered by insurance company coverage, or simple economics. Insurance co-pays are frequently higher for the most sophisticated, branded, digital progressive addition lenses (PALs). Private label lenses may offer much of the latest technology without the higher co-pays. Some insurance providers include house brand digital lenses in their lens menus that are based on major lens manufacturers’ designs, or independent designs that offer many of the same vision benefits. Go over the insurance companies’ lens choices carefully to see what they offer and advise your patients accordingly.
TAILOR-MADE When discussing free-form PALs with patients, I like to use the clothing analogy: You can buy small, medium, or large and you can also have a tailor take your individual measurements. Free-form lenses are very much like the tailor. Having lenses that are custom tailored to the wearer’s own unique Rx needs goes a long way to making vision better. That’s even more important when dealing with complex prescriptions and unique patient measurements.




Q: Are private label lenses inferior to brand name lenses?

A: Brand name lenses come with years of research and development behind them, along with practitioner support and a big advertising budget. They provide the technology that maximizes the visual experience and the clinical studies to back them up. With that said, most major lens manufacturers also recognize that there is a second-tier market out there. Some of them provide “source files” for private label lenses—the free-form technology may be the same but the brand will have a different name, the lenses will have different identification markings, and the price will be lower. There are other companies that specialize in developing very accurate source files that can be used in conjunction with digital surfacing equipment.

Your best strategy is to try a small patient sampling using private label lenses and then see what the results are in terms of better vision and overall patient satisfaction. In short, most private label lenses are not inferior to branded lenses. A caveat belongs here and you have probably heard this before: the best digital surfacing equipment can’t help if the lens design is inferior. You need to have confidence and experience in the lens design before promoting it to your patients.


Pech’s Elite Performance, Elite Ultimate with Scorpion Sapphire Safari Mirror, and Elite Advanced (from left to right).
Central Optical offers different iCentauri lens designs for reading, general purpose, distance, and computer use.

Q: What do I do when a “non-adapt” patient with a conventionally surfaced PAL lens wants to try free-form PALs?

A: This offers a great opportunity to present the benefits of free-form and digital surfacing without too much financial risk. Vision benefits can range from marginally incremental to major (according to the complexity of the Rx). Some manufacturers claim that free-form lenses can be accurate to within 1/100th of a diopter. That kind of accuracy can be used to eliminate many marginal optical aberrations and can turn a “non-adapt” into a happy wearer. This is a great way to go and can give your patient a “wow” visual experience.


Q: How can I make a comparison between private label and major brand lenses when it comes to design?

A: Do your homework! Ask the “go-to” surfacing people at your lab. They will know design advantages and all the features and benefits of the private label lenses they sell and how they compare in terms of accuracy and performance. They will also know whether the lens has a spherical front, a front cast from a free-form surfaced mold or if it’s digitally surfaced on both sides, and on which side(s) the near addition is applied. They will also have detailed information on corridor lengths, inset decentrations, and whether or not position-of-wear (POW) measurements are needed. The most sophisticated lens designs will require POW measurements, and are primarily available as branded lenses.


Q: Do private label lenses come with the same non-adapt warranties as brand name lenses?

A: Most labs handle non-adapt policies for their private label lenses in the same manner as their branded lenses. Some labs will offer conventionally surfaced PAL lenses as a warranty replacement and some will offer standard bifocals or single vision. Check with your lab first. Keep in mind that any additional edging and

HOUSE BRAND Sometimes we have insurance coverage issues, but you might be surprised to know that some insurers have house branded options for their digital PAL patients. Take the time to do some research and ask the individual carriers exactly what they cover; you may be pleasantly surprised by the answer.

coating charges may still be applied to the warranty—only the lenses fall into the warranty category.


Q: How do I position private label lenses in my practice?

A: Your brand-conscious consumer may be looking to cut costs in a down economy. Sales of private label products in many retail categories have steadily increased over the last few years and some retailers are very dependent on their private label brands to provide them with extra growth. However, providing an inferior product doesn’t provide the consumer with good value. Private label brands have to prove themselves and many private label free-form PALs have done just that. Make sure you know how the lenses are produced, and how they compare optically to branded lenses.

Some ECPs use the good/better/best formula. They will use branded lenses with POW measurements as their “best.” They may then go on to private label free-form lenses as their “better,” and conventionally surfaced PALs as their “good.” This is a tried-and-true strategy used by many retailers and it works for optical retailers too.

Luzerne’s free-form lens SightStar 365 is available in multiple corridor lengths.


Q: Where do I go for private label lenses?

A: There are many labs that provide these lenses and in multiple designs. Check out Luzerne Optical’s SightStar 365. This free-form lens is available in multiple corridor lengths and also has a “W” wide option for higher add powers. Pech Optical has the Pech Pro, and the newer Pech Elite. Central Optical offers different iCentauri lens designs for reading, general purpose, distance, and computer use. They are all free-form surfaced with designs linked to special purposes. Also check out MyLensClub.com. They have a Web site where you can source all of your free-form surfaced lenses online including the CLEARi™ back-surface free-form PAL.


Sharon Leonard is a licensed optician and contact lens practitioner in the Syracuse, NY, area.



WHERE TO FIND IT:


Central Optical
800-322-6678 • centraloptical.com

Luzerne Optical Laboratories, Ltd.
800-233-9637 • luzerneoptical.com

MyLens Club
888-274-6705 • mylensclub.com

Pech Optical Corp
800-831-2352 • pechoptical.com


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