Presbyopes May be Key in Growing the Market
By Jason J. Nichols, OD, MPH, PHD, FAAO
If you take note of the printed, online, or live discussions about the state of contact lenses, you'll no doubt hear many suggestions for different ways that we should go about growing the contact lens market. There is probably a list out there somewhere. Among other things, the two that I hear most frequently are solving the ever-so-persistent issues with contact lens-related dry eye and further development and adoption of contact lenses for myopia control. These are, without question, massive issues that would definitely make quite an impact in growing contact lenses.
While not invisible, I believe that next in line on this list of ways to grow the market is multifocal correction for presbyopes. I recently began to question why we don't hear or see it a bit higher on the list. Avid multifocal contact lens practitioners believe in multifocals and are strong advocates for their use. In fact, if you ask practitioners what technology in contact lenses tops their wish list, a staggering 55 percent of them will say new technologies in multifocals (Contact Lenses Today Quick Poll, January 8, 2012).
But if you look at the numbers, it makes you wonder what the rest of us are doing. In our annual report “Contact Lenses 2011” published in January 2012, our market research shows that multifocals in general make up about 15 percent of all contact lens fits. If you assume that there are about 35 million contact lens wearers in the United States, this means that there would be just over five million multifocal lens wearers in the United States.
But, it's important to picture this in the context of the actual market. Data obtained from the United States Census Bureau shows that in 2000, there were 100 million U.S. citizens age 45 or greater (www.census.gov). By 2010, there were 120 million U.S. citizens age 45 or greater (note that these numbers don't even reflect the early presbyopes in the 40- to 45-year age range). If we assume that about one-half of them require some other form of vision correction beyond presbyopia, that's still a staggering 60 million presbyopes who could be fitted in multifocal lenses! So, perhaps we should do something to change the culture of what we are doing with our presbyopes. I believe that starts with us.