Contact Lens Advances and the Event of 2005
BY JOSEPH T. BARR, OD, MS, FAAO, EDITOR
We learned in 2005 and believe we will see more in 2006 how contact lenses have and will provide better vision while allowing better comfort and in many cases better corneal and anterior segment health. Never before have contact lens manufacturers delivered so many new, better, truly unique lenses and lens care products in such a short period of time. This applies not only to silicone hydrogels and specialty designs in modern hydrogel materials, but to GP lenses as well. The United States has about 35 million lens wearers, who represent about 20 percent to 35 percent of a typical eyecare practice and offer long-term profitability. Following up from my May Editor's Perspective ("The Long-Term Value of a Contact Lens Patient"), in the upcoming months we will feature research from one of the top business schools in the world to help us understand the true value of a contact lens patient.
Will silicone hydrogel lenses replace hydrogel lenses in this decade? The trend is in that direction, but we also learned in 2005 that some practitioners still use PMMA lenses. Hydrogel lenses will be around for a long time. Should they be? That's another question. There's great debate now about how much oxygen the cornea needs. Manufacturers who sell lenses that provide more oxygen flow to the cornea argue that more oxygen is better for the cornea. Manufacturers who sell more lenses that provide less oxygen flux argue that you need less oxygen. More might seem better, but you need to consider all of a patient's eye characteristics and needs including surface biocompatibility and great vision. Keep in mind, too, that manufacturers create designs and gear their marketing and sales programs around profitability, which depends on manufacturing and delivery costs and pricing to all their channels for trade. These objectives may not always be in line with yours. Our goal at Contact Lens Spectrum, which in 2005 became part of Lippincott Williams & Wilkins VisionCare Group, a Wolters Kluwer business, is to continue to provide you with everyone's point of view.
I'm not complaining, but I will say that manufacturers try to get me and our journal to go along with their point of view. I'll be the first to admit that I'm human and have human biases, but I'm also one of the most objective people you'll meet. One thing I won't compromise on is this: We'll continue to do our best to deliver everyone's point of view in the contact lens field.
What's the 2005 Contact Lens Event of the Year? I'm going out on a limb here and not choosing a lens modality. The event this year that I believe will impact our field more than anything else is the removal of proposed legislation that would force the FDA to approve products only when manufacturers agree to sell to all channels of trade. We may see more FTC hearings to discuss how the Fairness to Contact Lens Consumers Act is working and whether and this is the key optometrists and ophthalmologists will have to stop selling contact lenses, as is the case with drugs they prescribe or lab tests that they order. More on this later this year.