Ruminating on Recalls
Last year a company brought a solution manufacturing plant back on line that it previously had to shut down. It's hard to remember all the recalls over the past few years. We've seen an eyecare company that recently recalled some solutions, mostly internationally. We've had another eyecare company withdraw an initially widely successful product that then encountered numerous fungal infection issues; the same company also recently recalled some lots of its leading solution. Another eyecare company withdrew a successful dry eye product because a small number of bottles were contaminated in manufacturing. And then a major contact lens manufacturer encountered a manufacturing issue with a leading lens product, resulting in a recall of some lenses and a subsequent massive backorder for that product.
Some in our field have wondered if investors, consumers and our contact lens patients would hear all of this and begin to abandon contact lenses. Combine this with some not totally favorable commentary in a leading consumer magazine and some controversy stirred up by suggestions that refractive surgery is safer than contact lens wear, and you have what some believe is the perfect storm to stifle contact lens industry growth and, even worse, to deter the use of these better-than-ever devices.
Will consumers hear about all of this and look more toward spectacles alone or refractive surgery? Will lens wearers abandon multipurpose disinfecting solutions because of concerns about infections and recalls and turn instead to hydrogen peroxide in droves? I think not on all counts. First of all, most consumers don't have time for this type of information, and many other products are available to substitute. I believe this series of recalls is just chance, probability and chaos theory, if you like, catching up with us. We've had very few contact lens recalls until the last two years. A better question may be: why haven't we seen more recalls with the continued growth of more complex polymers, mass production and the diversity of the systems that are now available? It seems that few companies are immune.
I'm not just cheerleading here; I think contact lenses have a bright future. Allow me to again quote a couple of mentors: decades ago, whenever a crisis arose in the contact lens industry, Neal Bailey, OD, PhD, always told me (and I believe this is a quote from Robert Koetting, OD, FAAO) that as long as people want to see well without glasses, contact lenses will thrive.
I might add that as long as people can make a profit from safe contact lenses, they will thrive. Contact lenses do have a threat or two out there, and those will be future editorial topics. But I don't think a few recalls that happen to occur over a short time period will cause their demise.