A Look at the CLMA
BY JASON J. NICHOLS, OD, MPH, PHD, FAAO
Jan Svochak, President, Contact Lens Manufacturers Association
This month’s focus is on not one company, but an association of companies in the specialty lens segment: the Contact Lens Manufacturers Association (CLMA). I recently had the pleasure to speak with Jan Svochak, the CLMA’s current president.
Q Mr. Svochak, please tell us a bit about your organization in terms of its history and direction.
The Contact Lens Manufacturers Association (CLMA) originated in 1961 and consists of independent contact lens laboratories as well as lens material, solution, and equipment manufacturers. There are now 50 member laboratories, with the United States and another seven countries represented.
The mission of the CLMA is to increase awareness and utilization of custom manufactured contact lenses. Our labs work closely with eyecare practitioners who fit specialty lenses. Our trained consultants—I like to call them “lens mavens”—help practitioners solve some of the unique challenges associated with specialty lenses: the selection, fitting, and problem-solving of these patients.
The GP Lens Institute (GPLI) is an integral part of the CLMA, and it’s celebrating its 30th year. Under the direction of Dr. Edward S. Bennett, the GPLI provides numerous educational resources for practitioners that are all funded by CLMA companies to help our customers grow.
The CLMA member companies are on the front lines of addressing new contact lens challenges, which is an important part of the contact lens industry; for instance, we are the first to design lenses for patients undergoing new surgical procedures.
Q Tell us about any new products or new developments in which the CLMA is involved.
New products from CLMA member companies are addressing some great needs, including a new unit-dose nonpreserved saline that is a help with the growing scleral lens market. A new surface treatment coming out soon will also help us all. Almost all of the CLMA member labs are introducing new scleral lens designs, many with multifocal options.
The GPLI is a big part of what we do. We plan on increasing the educational programs and partnering with educational institutes and other organizations to help grow this market as well.
One possible challenge that we may face relates to the recent significant growth in the scleral lens category. It takes three times longer to cut a scleral lens compared to a corneal lens; if we took all of the GP corneal lenses that we’re currently making and converted them to sclerals, we’d need three times the manufacturing equipment. That’s a challenge that we need to address to accommodate further growth.
Q Tell us your vision for the contact lens field in the short term (less than 5 years) and in the long term (20 years from now).
I think we will see further advancement in diagnostic technology that will continue to help expand the specialty lens market. Scleral lenses will continue to grow in the short term, as will orthokeratology, irregular cornea, and multifocal modalities.
Looking toward the long term, we will see new GP materials, particularly specific to scleral lenses to account for flexure issues and the fact that scleral lenses are twice as thick as corneal GPs. In addition, developments in surface treatments may open new avenues of chemistry that we couldn’t use before because the lenses wouldn’t wet well enough.
As a last point, I believe that the custom nature and ability to respond quickly to unmet patient needs uniquely enables CLMA member labs to deliver even those requirements that we can’t foresee—new market segments that aren’t even apparent now. The CLMA member companies are geared to respond quickly to these unmet needs, and I think that’s key for the long-term evolution of the whole industry. CLS
Dr. Nichols is an assistant vice president for industry research development and professor at the University of Alabama-Birmingham as well as editor-in-chief of Contact Lens Spectrum and editor of the weekly email newsletter Contact Lenses Today. He has received research funding from Johnson & Johnson Vision Care.