Judiciary Committee Discusses Pricing Policies
Representatives from contact lens manufacturers, online retailers, optometrists, and a national consumer group testified at a U.S. Senate subcommittee on Wednesday, July 30 in Washington, D.C., that focused on manufacturers’ contact lens pricing policies. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), chairwoman of the Judiciary Antitrust Subcommittee, said that she and her colleagues were not there to decide an antitrust case, but rather to try to determine what effect the corporate policies would have on consumers.
The testimony focused on unilateral pricing policies (UPPs), or resale price maintenance (RPM), which requires practitioners or retailers to sell certain contact lenses at or above a set price or the manufacturer will no longer sell them the product. George Slover, senior policy counsel, Consumers Union, said that even if the policies are not antitrust violations from a legal standpoint, from a practical standpoint they are anticompetitive to refuse to allow discounting. Slover said that with UPPs, consumers will still have the right to shop around, but will not be able to save money by doing so.
R. Joe Zeidner, general counsel, 1-800 Contacts, said he was troubled by the speed at which manufacturers have implemented similar policies, and that these pricing policies apply to both new and old products. He said his company projects that by the end of 2015, 80 percent of the market could be subject to UPPs.
A manufacturer’s representative, Millicent L. Knight, OD, CHC, FAARM, head of Professional Affairs, Johnson & Johnson Vision Care, Inc., said the company has not established a RPM program but has unilaterally established a minimum price in the market. The new policy, she said, gives consumers improved visibility to the price that they can expect to pay when they select one of the brands covered by the policy. She explained that as a result of the UPP, consumers would have access to lower prices without having to send in rebates to get discounts, therefore making the process simpler for consumers.
Also offering testimony was American Optometric Association President David A. Cockrell, OD, who said that contact lenses are not a typical retail product but a medical device that requires medical supervision for safe use. He described in detail the harmful effects of improper lens care.
The entire testimony is available online at the Senate Judiciary Committee’s website at www.judiciary.senate.gov/meetings/pricing-polices-and-competition-in-the-contact-lens-industry-is-what-you-see-what-you-get.
The Cooper Companies Completes Acquisition of Sauflon Pharmaceuticals
The Cooper Companies, Inc. has completed its acquisition of Sauflon Pharmaceuticals Limited. The transaction is valued at around $1.2 billion.
According to CooperVision, the addition of the Sauflon portfolio to its MyDay and Proclear brands allows the company to offer multiple contact lens families designed and marketed for distinct wearer segments, including an extensive daily disposable range.
CooperVision is now working to combine both companies’ people, processes, and pipelines to build the best possible customer and wearer experience. Customers should continue working with their current CooperVision and Sauflon representatives, support resources, and ordering mechanisms until advised otherwise.
In conjunction with the transaction, Cooper also announced that it has closed a $700 million three-year Senior Unsecured Term Loan, which matures Aug. 4, 2017. The company intends to use it to fund the acquisition of Sauflon, to provide working capital, and for general corporate purposes.
AAO Announces 2014 Awards
The American Academy of Optometry (AAO) has named the following 2014 award recipients:
Brien A. Holden, PhD, DSc, FAAO—Charles F. Prentice Medal and Lecture Award; Lyndon Jones, FCOptom, PhD, FAAO—Glenn A. Fry Award and Lecture (American Optometric Foundation Award); Laura E. Downie, BOptom, PhD, FAAO—Irvin M. and Beatrice Borish Award; Tone Garaas-Maurdalen—AAO-Essilor Award for Outstanding International Contributions to Optometry; Serge Resnikoff, MD, PhD—Carel C. Koch Memorial Award; Ron Melton, OD, FAAO, and Randall K. Thomas, OD, MPH, FAAO—Vincent Ellerbrock Clinician Educator Award; Satya B. Verma, OD, FAAO—Life Fellow Award; Neville A. McBrien, MCOptom, PhD; Andrew I. Jobling; and Alex Gentle, PhD, FAAO—Garland W. Clay Award; and Edward J. Revelli, OD, FAAO—Michael G. Harris Award for Excellence in Optometric Education (American Optometric Foundation Award).
The recipients of the Section on Cornea, Contact Lenses & Refractive Technologies awards are: Michel Guillon, PhD, FCOptom, FAAO—Max Schapero Memorial Lecture Award; Jean-Louis Blanchard, OD—Founders’ Award; and David Rosenbloom, OD, FAAO (posthumously)—Exemplary Service Award.
In the Public Health & Environmental Vision Section, Alden N. Haffner, OD, FAAO, will receive the Henry B. Peters Memorial Award in Public Health and Environmental Vision.
Award winners will be recognized at the Academy 2014 Denver Awards Ceremony on Nov. 14. The annual meeting will take place Nov. 12 to 15 at the Colorado Convention Center in Denver. Visit www.aaopt.org/regsite.
SCLERAL LENS FIT SCALE NOW AVAILABLE
Michigan College of Optometry’s Vision Research Institute (VRI) announces the availability of the Scleral Lens Fit Scale, which was created by the VRI for educational purposes and is designed to assist clinicians in practice.
The Scleral Lens Fit Scale demonstrates how to correctly estimate the clearance (the amount of tears beneath portions of a lens, measured in microns) by comparing the tear layer thickness to the center thickness of the lens. Optic sections clearly demonstrate the tear thickness beneath the lens both centrally and at the limbal area along with images of various edge clearances.
WebSystem3 Unveils LensFerry Service
CooperVision, Inc., through its subsidiary WebSystem3 LLC, has unveiled its LensFerry service. Now in its U.S. beta release, LensFerry allows wearers to order replacement contact lenses from any manufacturer via their mobile device, tablet, or computer for fast shipment to their homes. The prescribing practice receives the sales revenue as if the lenses had been ordered in-office, and all LensFerry communications are customized with the practice’s name and/or logo.
The service, which will be part of WebSystem3’s EyeCare Prime suite later this year, includes contact lenses from all manufacturers at the ECPs’ specified prices. If a wearer is not immediately interested in placing a lens order following an in-office appointment, LensFerry can send ECP-customized follow-up messages to encourage enrollment and online ordering, build wearer loyalty, and maintain relationships.
Following the service’s 90-day beta launch period, LensFerry is then expected to roll out to other U.S. practices, with the potential for select international availability in 2015.
Alden, ABB Enter Agreement
Alden Optical has named ABB Optical Group as its exclusive distributor partner effective Sept. 1, 2014. As of that date, all new orders for Alden Optical lenses will be placed either directly with Alden or via ABB Optical. Alden’s current distribution network will continue to service all customer orders initiated prior to Sept. 1, 2014 for all transactions relating to Alden’s policies and warranties. To open an account with Alden Optical, send an email to email@example.com. To open an account with ABB Optical, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
ASCO Announces 2014 Special Recognition Awards
The Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry (ASCO) recently announced the recipients of the 2014 Special Recognition Awards.
Dr. Yi Pang, assistant dean for Research and associate professor, Illinois College of Optometry (ICO), received the inaugural Rising Star Award. Sponsored by Oculus, the ASCO Rising Star Award is given to an outstanding faculty member or administrator with less than 10 years of service.
Dr. Barbara Fink, associate professor of Optometry and Vision Science and chair of the Diversity Enhancement Committee, The Ohio State University College of Optometry, received the Dr. Jack Bennett Innovation in Optometric Education Award, which recognizes an ASCO volunteer for an outstanding innovation in optometric education through ASCO.
Optometry student Ryan Anderson won the Student Award in Clinical Ethics, sponsored by International Vision Expo, for his essay titled “Tough Talks and Patient Privacy.”
■ Unilens Vision Inc. has announced that Diversified Ophthalmics, Inc. has been named an authorized distributor throughout the United States for Unilens’ entire C-Vue family of disposable and C-Vue Advanced Custom contact lens brands. The lenses are now available through all 13 Diversified Ophthalmics locations.
■ The Blanchard Contact Lens Research and Professional Development Center recently expanded the reach of its Beyond The Limbus scleral lens workshops. To keep the workshops accessible to as many interested eyecare professionals as possible, the state-of-the-art equipment and expert guest faculty will be travelling to cities across the country over the coming year. Planning is underway for workshops in Los Angeles and Newport News, Va. as well as points in between. Practitioners wishing to attend a Beyond The Limbus workshop should contact their Blanchard Sales Representative or National Sales Director Lee Buffalo at email@example.com to discuss availability.
■ Accu Lens has entered into a licensing agreement with B&L UK (Hastings) for the manufacturing of the Maxim scleral lens. This is the second license agreement that now has Maxim being manufactured and distributed throughout Europe and South America. The company says that having a key partnership in each of these markets will help strengthen the Maxim brand. Practitioners across North America, Europe, and South America can order those lenses from: Accu Lens (Denver); B&L (UK) (Hastings, England); or Mediphacos (Brazil).
■ SynergEyes, Inc., manufacturer and marketer of the Duette and UltraHealth families of contact lenses, has raised $12 million to accelerate expansion of its contact lenses for patients who have astigmatism, presbyopia, and irregular corneas. The funding also will facilitate SynergEyes’ strategic acquisitions in the field of specialty contact lenses.
■ Texas-based optometric alliance Vision Source has bolstered its relationship with Essilor of America to offer additional cost saving benefits for its nationwide family of independent optometrists. The agreement enables Vision Source clinicians to prescribe Essilor’s TruClear and Viso products to patients who have EyeMed benefits.
■ Rigel Pharmaceuticals Inc. has announced that R348, its ophthalmic JAK/SYK inhibitor, did not meet the primary or secondary endpoints in a recently completed Phase 2 clinical study in patients who have dry eye disease. The endpoints were measured by changes in corneal fluorescein staining, conjunctival staining, tear production, and dry eye symptom scores from baseline during 12 weeks of treatment versus placebo. No significant adverse events were reported in the trial. Rigel has decided not to initiate any new studies of R348 for this indication, but is continuing its Phase 2 study of dry eye in patients who have graft-versus-host disease.
■ Alcon partnered with High Performance Vision Associates—a recently created national group of sports-specialty trained eyecare professionals—led by Executive Director Dr. Don Teig—to evaluate the visual-motor skills of professional golfers at the Meijer LPGA Classic in Grand Rapids, Mich. More than 80 professional golfers participated in the evaluations, which included a variety of visual acuity tests, from eye-hand coordination, to tracking ability, to response time, to learning which eye is their dominant eye.