CANDID CONVERSATIONS BETWEEN OPHTHALMIC OFFICE’S RICHARD KIRKNER AND LEADING OPTICAL EXECUTIVES ABOUT THEIR PRODUCT STRATEGIES.
Richard Kirkner: Silicone hydrogels today account for 50% of contact lens patient visits. How adaptable is this material to innovation from a product development perspective?
Dave Brown: Silicone hydrogel is very adaptable. Since 2003, when VISTAKON introduced ACUVUE ADVANCE®, we have been able to take silicone hydrogel materials and innovate them by extending them into different materials and different modalities to meet various vision and comfort needs. As a result, new materials like senofilcon A (ACUVUE OASYS) and narafilcon B (1-DAY ACUVUE TruEye) have dramatically changed the marketplace. And, most recently, we launched ACUVUE ADVANCE Plus, a redesigned and enhanced successor to ACUVUE ADVANCE.
RK: Can you discuss VISTAKON’s R&D efforts?
DB: Many of the improvements in modern contact lenses have built on a revolutionary concept introduced in 1987 when VISTAKON launched the first seven-day extended wear disposable contact lens. And, in the nearly 25 years since then, VISTAKON has brought to market a number of other innovations embraced by contact lens practitioners such as HYDRACLEAR® technology, the incorporation of UV protection in our contact lenses, and most recently the ULTRA-CLEAN™ Technology in ACUVUE ADVANCE Plus to help resist deposits.
RK: Where do multifocal contact lenses go from here?
DB: Many optometrists would agree that fitting presbyopes with contact lenses is a challenge. Besides struggling with their vision, many contact lens wearers who are beginning to experience the early signs of presbyopia also cite problems with dryness and discomfort and consider abandoning con-tact lens wear despite a strong desire to continue wearing them.
We’ve found that synergy of the proven senofilcon A comfortable material and innovative technologies in ACUVUE OASYS for PRESBYOPIA provides contact lens wearers experiencing the early symptoms of presbyopia a better option for continued contact lens use. Patients who wear contact lenses are highly motivated to stay in them, and manufacturers will continue to work on the development of contact lenses that provide sharp optics at all distances while also keeping patients comfortable.
RK: What does the future of toric lenses look like?
DB: There’s still a lot of opportunity to educate people who have astigmatism that contact lenses are a great choice. Of the 7.6 million contact lens wearers aged 12 to 39 who have astigmatism, almost half are wearing spherical lenses that don’t fully correct their vision. Furthermore, almost one-third of spectacle wearers who have astigmatism say they would “definitely” or “probably” consider contact lens wear if given the option.
We believe we set the bar very high with ACUVUE OASYS for ASTIGMATISM and its ability to harness the power of the eye’s natural blinking action, providing rotational stability. We also think there’s an opportunity for daily disposable single-use contact lenses for astigmatism.
RK: Having gone through this last recession, what are you smarter about today?
DB: One of the things we’ve seen even before the recession is that new products can drive a category and gain share. In the midst of the recession we launched 1-DAY ACUVUE TruEye, and it has helped reinvigorate the daily disposable category in the U.S. In fact, 15% of new fits in contact lenses are in daily disposable contacts.
A trusted product with exceptional performance will always win in any economy. Apple has proven this as well.