The Wide-Open Horizon Of Discovery Beckons
By Jason J. Nichols, OD, MPH, PhD, FAAO
In the Oct. 31, 2011, issue of Contact Lenses Today, we published the following Editor's Commentary:
"According to an article in Time Magazine (Oct. 31, 2011), it is estimated that the seven billionth person will be born somewhere in the world on October 31. It's quite amazing to think that there are 7 billion people on this planet. If you apply estimates from epidemiological studies, about one half of the population requires some form of vision correction. Thus, there are 3.5 billion people out there with such a need. However, even the best estimates suggest that there may be approximately 120 million contact lens wearers, which represents only 3.4 percent of those who actually need vision correction. There is substantial growth in some 'emerging' contact lens markets, but other majors are stagnant. How do we grow the contact lens market?"
Numerous people wrote to us with their thoughts about growth—or lack thereof—in the contact lens market. (Watch for upcoming issues of Contact Lenses Today to read their comments, or if you miss an issue, go to www.cltoday.com and click on the archive.) One of the lengthier responses came from Prof. Brien Holden, whose comments appear as a guest editorial in this issue. Necessity is the mother of invention, and as Brien points out, there are significant unmet needs, particularly in the emerging BRICS markets (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa). Yet, as Brien also notes, the industry needs to think out of the box in developing the vastly improved, innovative products that these deserving patients need.
There is likely no "silver bullet" answer to this issue. With the recent passing of Steve Jobs, I was reminded that parallels can be drawn between any industry and life itself through his 2005 Stanford commencement address in which he said, "Death is very likely the single best invention of Life." That statement has been used in many industries as a call for innovation from a great modern entrepreneur. While "death" to the contact lens industry is certainly not imminent or fathomable, the flip-side view of the wide-open horizon of discovery beckons. It is time for us all to respond.