As seen in Ophthalmic Office’s recent survey, an overwhelming majority of optometrists do recommend supplements for age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and dry eye—however this doesn’t mean they provide the products in their practice. Those who do offer these supplements mainly base which products to offer on the latest research. Other important factors are formulation, samples, profitability, and bioavailability. Not wanting to seem “pushy” or cut into other products ranked high on those who chose not to recommend supplements. Here’s a closer look at what some of your colleagues had to say about why they choose or don’t choose to recommend ocular supplements.

“We have strong, clear scientific evidence that antioxidants slow down the progression of macular degeneration and that omega-3 fatty acids and similar nutritional agents help to control dry eye problems.”

“I will recommend supplements but have chosen not to sell them in my office yet.”

“Most diseases are directly related to the lack of proper nutrition. It is our duty to inform and correct these problems as all systemic disease eventually affects ocular health.”

“I believe vitamin supplements are standard of care for anyone at risk for AMD.”

“I feel if we don’t talk about beneficial supplements then who will? The eye is one of the most complex organs in the body and we are the experts.”

“Evidence shows that ocular supplements for patients with AMD and dry eye have shown to be effective therapy.”

“I prefer to simply recommend supplements that patients can purchase at any pharmacy.”

“I think medications are an easy way out to treat conditions that are most likely the results of nutritional deficiencies in the first place. Altering behavior and diet is a more effective, sage, and permanent solution to things like dry eye.”

“Do not believe they do anything.”

“Our patients are looking to us for answers. If we don’t do the research, they certainly won’t!”

“We are in the process of deciding if we want to offer supplements in the office. Arguments for involve quality control, arguments against relate to perception of just trying to move supplements.”

“It has now been determined that supplements can help with dry eye problems and with medical eye-related problems.”

“In a crowded marketplace, it helps to point out products rather than having patients choose.”

“Research shows patients with low macular pigment, or those with AMD, can benefit from supplementation with the ocular carotenoids. Evidence further points to using the CORRECT carotenoids, meaning all three found in the macula: mesozeaxanthin, zeaxanthin, and lutein. Formulations found at drug or health food storesdo not contain the proper amounts of these macular pigments, so it is the RESPONSIBILITY of the optometrist to provide these to patients in office.”

“I like to recommend supplements to patients because they do feel the benefit.”

“I think they are valuable and offer a preventative versus ‘damage control’ approach.”

“I’m not sure if patients want to make this type of purchase in our offices. We’ve have tried and not been successful. The other problem with offering this type of service is it ‘cuts’ into patient spending for other bigger ticket items, like spectacles and contact lenses, which are more profitable.”

“It’s our obligation to promote preventive measures which promote eye health.”

“Difficult to keep inventory, selling takes time and effort from staff and away from other tasks.”

“I recommend having supplements to purchase in your practice. The patients realize that your serious enough about the supplements to inventory them on your shelves, and at the very least they can reference the ingredients found in your products to start a valuable dialogue. And when the patient initiates the dialogue, they’re more motivated to not only use the product but they listen more intently to your recommendations!”

“Lack of formal information/training.”

“I feel that it should be written as a prescription, along with nutritional guidelines, etc. As a rule doctors do not provide any medications directly to the patient and I would pull this under that category.”

 “I offer them because they work. And quality DOES matter. I have seen high-quality omega-3 fatty acids open meibomian glands and when the patient ran out and got more at the grocery store, they plugged right back up.”

“It’s important for ocular health and there are added overall benefits for the rest of the body.”

“You want to offer a full scope of services to your patients even if they may eventually wind up in the retinologist office.”

“Mostly for convenience to the patient and to assure what they are taking is appropriate.”

“I RECOMMEND supplements but feel if the patient wants to use them then we will help them acquire them.”

“I recommend them on a case-by-case basis, but I do not sell supplements in my office. I offer samples.”

“Because most of the stuff on the shelves is crap.”

“I recommend them because they seem to be effective and because many patients are looking for safe, non-drug alternatives to help them.”

“It is our role as ‘healthcare providers’ to educate our patients on how to keep their eyes healthy, not just identify and treat unhealthy eyes.”

“I don’t aggressively promote supplements in my practice, but if appropriate I do give patients the information I have on supplements and their role in the course of treatment. And with that I let patients make the decision what will work best in their daily lives and they can research further if they wish.”

“I believe the AREDS study was pretty conclusive as to their usefulness, and as such, I recommend them.”

“I don’t feel comfortable selling non-ophthalmic products in my office.”

“Ocular supplementation is a vital tool in the war against AMD and dry eye. I don’t feel you can be completely successful against these diseases without supplements.”

“We offer for the first purchase so that patient gets right formulation. After that, we tell patient to buy wherever it is most convenient and cheaper for them.”

“Many places already carry quality supplements and I do not think they would sell very well. Also, while I sell glasses and contacts, I would have some hesitation to recommend supplements in my practice for fear of being pushy.”

“Patients are grateful to know about holistic alternatives to pharmacologic treatment of disease.”

“Concerned about patient perception of their eye doctor selling them supplements.”

“I prefer to provide comprehensive eyecare which includes systemic solutions to address ocular health since the eyes are part of the whole body. Sometimes we need to treat the entire body to also treat the eyes.”

“I offer a product better than they can find at the drug store. It can also be very overwhelming for the patient.”

“I have a young patient base so I usually recommend AMD supplements to patients who are concerned they may suffer the same fate as an older relative with the disease.”

“It is my job to prescribe or recommend a treatment, not to sell a product such as vitamins or supplements.”

“I wonder if this is too mercantile. Is it professional?”

“Being a ‘doctor’ means making recommendations for your patient’s eye health.”

“Haven’t found a good way to incorporate a hands-on approach to my patients’ ability to choose supplements to benefit their ocular health.”

“I feel in order to treat my patients adequately, I must address their total health, and not just their ocular health.”

“It’s part of my job to make sure patients are prescribed what is good for their eyes.”


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