Article Date: 4/1/2006

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Prepare for a Surge of Color
BY DIANA MONEA, OD

One of the first patients in North America to buy FreshLook One-Day (CIBA Vision) colored contact lenses was a 40-year-old male construction worker who had aqua-colored eyes. He was married and had children. He bought both blue lenses and green lenses. I know because he was the first patient whom I fit as part of a pilot project with CIBA for the company's new Fresh-Look One-Day lenses. Fresh-Look One-Day is a daily disposable colored contact lens manufactured in the same nelfilcon A material used to manufacture CIBA's Focus Dailies daily disposable lenses.

That construction worker helped me realize the possibilities associated with this new lens. If he'd come in the day before, I probably wouldn't have offered colored contact lenses to him. After all, he didn't fit anyone's stereotype of a typical cosmetic colored lens wearer. And, like many practitioners, I'm hesitant to suggest colored lenses to any patient who might wear them infrequently. I don't like the idea that those lenses spend weeks — or even months — in a contact lens storage case. Yet that first encounter helped me realize that FreshLook One-Day lenses could completely change my colored contact lens practice.

Colored Lens Barriers

To truly see the impact that daily disposable colored contact lenses can have, it's important to see what the obstacles to colored lens prescribing have been. You'll note that each of the following traditional concerns about colored contact lens fittings practically disappear with the introduction of a daily disposable colored contact lens.

Compliance Some practitioners worry about how patients are using their colored contact lenses. Do those lenses float in dirty cases for days at a time? Are patients cleaning and disinfecting the lenses properly?

A daily disposable modality makes those concerns obsolete. With FreshLook One-Day lenses, even occasional colored lens wearers apply a fresh, sterile pair each time they wear their lenses. Just like Focus Dailies, FreshLook One-Day lenses are designed for single-use compliance.

Chair Time Many practitioners avoid colored contact lens discussions, fearing that engaging patients with colored lens choices will add to increased chair time. But just as a daily disposable lens made it easier for me to introduce patients to part-time contact lens wear, FreshLook One-Day lenses made it easy for me to introduce colored lens wear. In my practice today, many of my soft spherical lens patients whose prescriptions are available in the Focus Dailies parameters wear those lenses. And even if it's not a patient's primary lens, I strongly suggest that every patient keep some Focus Dailies on hand for the times when they're traveling, are recuperating from an illness, suffering from ocular allergies or when they simply want added convenience. No refit is required from Focus Dailies to FreshLook One-Day, which has significantly reduced my colored lens chair time.

Also, FreshLook One-Day is currently available in Canada in only three colors — pure hazel, blue and green — which simplifies the color selection process. (In the United States, FreshLook One-Day will launch in these three colors and also in gray.)

In our office, we allow patients to try on a different plano colored lens in each eye. They keep on their preferred color, then we remove the other color and try on the third color. Many patients buy at least one color when allowed that option.

Cost Some practitioners expect that patients who are interested in colored lenses, such as teens, aren't likely to pay a premium. But at a retail price per box lower than the existing FreshLook ColorBlends lenses, cost has not been an issue in our practice.

In the past, I've had patients who have ordered colored contact lenses but then decided that they didn't like them for some reason. They'd want to return the unused portions for credit or exchange, and it was a hassle for the office staff. But at this price, occasional colored lens wearers are more likely to be satisfied. Most women spend more on makeup, hairstyles or accessories than they do on two packs of daily disposable colored contact lenses.

Tipping Point

The introduction of a daily disposable colored contact lens may well be the tipping point in the colored lens market. Because the modality can make it easier to introduce colored lens wear to more people — and make it simpler for patients to incorporate colored lens wear — it will open the option to new patients.

The first and most important step is for practitioners to embrace the idea. I believe that without the doctor's recommendation and endorsement, technicians will find it more difficult to discuss the option with patients. Patients tend to repeat their behavior. They won't try a new lens unless they have reason to do so – and their doctor's advice is precisely the kind of reason they seek.

Why Not Try Them?

Just as FreshLook One-Day lenses are removing obstacles for practitioners who have been reluctant to prescribe colored lenses, they can do the same for patients. During my presentation of the lens, I ask my patients, "why not try them?"

I remind myself to discard any notions of who makes a good colored lens candidate. The old rules no longer apply. I don't limit the presentation only to women who wear the latest fashions. I know that many female patients, whether they're busy moms or just finishing a shift at work, might not spend time applying makeup every morning. But I also know that when they go out for a social occasion, they want to look their best.

Older women and men, to whom I might not before have suggested cosmetic colored lenses, are good candidates as well. Remember the construction worker? He momentarily balked when I suggested the lenses, but then decided to at least try them. When he saw that the eye color change was subtle and not dramatic, and when he realized how the color helped improve lens handling, he decided to go for it.

In some practices, I can imagine that occasional cosmetic colored lens wearers might wish to become regular colored lens wearers. In that case, those patients might want to switch to FreshLook ColorBlends lenses for two-week wear.

But in my practice, I emphasize the benefits of daily disposability. It's to patients who prefer that modality, whether for the convenience, the health benefits or the part-time wearing option — as well as to spectacle lens wearers — that I suggest daily disposable cosmetic colored lenses. In both cases, it's an easy add-on. As I mentioned previously, current Focus Dailies patients don't require a re-fit, and fitting potential new contact lens wearers with this lens is generally easy and fun. In fact, I think it's important to acknowledge that cosmetic colored lenses add an element of fun to the practice. Patients and technicians talk about the results excitedly. Friends or other patients in the reception area are asked their opinion. Colored lenses create a buzz that builds on itself.

Traditionally I take a cautious approach to new lenses. I remember doing that when Focus Dailies first became available. I thought that patients wouldn't pay a premium price for a lens they would throw away each day. It turned out that I was wrong.

So I remembered that lesson when the FreshLook One-Day lenses arrived in my office. And when a construction worker came in — a happy Focus Dailies wearer — I asked myself, "Why not offer?" That has become my mantra.

Dr. Monea operates the three-location Eye Health Centres in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada, and Shawnee Station and Kensington, Alberta, Canada.



Contact Lens Spectrum, Issue: April 2006