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NEWS SPECTRUM

JOHNSON & JOHNSON VISION INTRODUCES AI-POWERED VIRTUAL ASSISTANT FOR CONTACT LENSES

Johnson & Johnson Vision introduced Andy, a virtual assistant chatbot powered by artificial intelligence (AI). Andy can be found by connecting with Acuvue on the Facebook Messenger app. Andy will allow users to obtain answers to their contact lens-related questions at any time of the day from the convenience of their computer or mobile device. Like other AI-powered technologies, Andy becomes smarter with each interaction.

With Andy, Johnson & Johnson Vision says it aims to empower those who are considering contact lenses while also helping new wearers who may have questions or challenges with applying, removing, or caring for their new contact lenses. Research shows that these can be barriers, causing some new users to give up. Andy is intended to be a new source of information and support in addition to that provided by eyecare professionals.

To chat with Andy, users can search for “Acuvue” in the Facebook Messenger app, which is free to download from the App Store or Google Play store. ■

NECO SELECTS DR. HOWARD PURCELL AS NEXT PRESIDENT

The New England College of Optometry (NECO) Board of Trustees has named Howard Purcell, OD, as the 13th president and CEO of the college. Dr. Purcell, who will take office on July 2, 2018, was selected following a national search to succeed Clifford Scott, OD, MPH, who will be stepping down after serving for nine years.

Dr. Purcell is a graduate of NECO’s Class of 1984 and brings a wealth of experience and success in many aspects of optometry. His optometric career began with 11 years of private practice in Florida with his father, NECO alumnus Saul Purcell, OD, ‘54. He then joined the faculty at Nova Southeastern University College of Optometry, rising to the position of Deputy Dean prior to being recruited by Johnson & Johnson as senior director of Professional Affairs. Most recently, Dr. Purcell was the senior vice president of Customer Development for Essilor of America. ■

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IACLE ANNOUNCES WORLDWIDE WINNERS OF ANNUAL AWARDS

IACLE has announced the winners of the 2018 IACLE Contact Lens Educator of the Year Awards, which recognize and reward achievement in contact lens education, as well as the 2018 IACLE Travel Awards for members to attend major international meetings. Through sponsorship from CooperVision, four IACLE Contact Lens Educator of the Year Awards will be presented to IACLE members in each of IACLE’s three global regions.

The 2018 IACLE Contact Lens Educators of the Year winners are IACLE Americas Contact Lens Educator of the Year – Professor Lyndon Jones, University of Waterloo, Canada; IACLE Asia Pacific Contact Lens Educator of the Year – Associate Professor Runa Mazumder, Vidyasagar College of Optometry & Vision Science, Kolkata, India; and IACLE Europe / Africa – Middle East Contact Lens Educators of the Year – Wim Borst, Deltion College, Zwollen, the Netherlands, and Henri Eek, Deltion College and Hogeschool Utrecht, the Netherlands.

The 2018 IACLE Travel Awards recipients are Professor Martha Lucila Márquez García, Santo Tomás University, Bucaramanga, Colombia; Ahmed Sherry, Modern University for Business and Science, Beirut, Lebanon; and Professor Sabrina Lara, Universidad Nacional Villa Maria, Córdoba, Argentina. ■

TAKEDA TO BUY SHIRE FOR $62 BILLION

Takeda Pharmaceutical agreed to buy Shire for 45.3 billion pounds ($62 billion). According to Takeda, the proposed acquisition of Shire will create a global R&D-driven biopharmaceutical leader headquartered in Japan. The two companies had been in deal negotiations for several weeks.

Under the terms of the acquisition, each Shire shareholder will be entitled to receive $30.33 in cash for each Shire share and either 0.839 new Takeda shares or 1.678 Takeda American Depositary Shares (ADSs). The transaction has been approved by both companies’ boards of directors and is expected to close in the first half of 2019, according to an announcement. Upon the closing of the transaction, Takeda shareholders will own approximately 50% of the combined group, according to the announcement. ■

AUTHORITIES CRACK DOWN ON ILLEGAL CONTACT LENS SALES IN TEXAS

Thirty-seven contact lens store owners and wholesale distribution companies have been ordered to stop selling unlawful and potentially dangerous contact lenses in Texas. According to the Texas Attorney General’s Office, the businesses have made refunds available to consumers and will pay more than $140,000 in civil penalties and attorneys’ fees to the state of Texas.

The Texas Attorney General’s office began its investigation in March 2016 after undercover sweeps by the San Antonio Police Department turned up more than two dozen stores selling contact lenses without requiring consumers to provide a prescription, which violated the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act and the Texas Optometry Act.

Ten companies – located primarily in San Antonio, Houston, and Dallas – marketed the lenses to novelty shops, corner stores, and gas stations, even though retailers could not legally sell them without a prescription. ■

AAO LAUNCHES ACADEMY ONLINE

The American Academy of Optometry launched a new online CE and resource platform, Academy Online. Users can find session recordings from past annual meetings as well as distance learning credits. This initiative is aimed at assisting optometrists and vision scientists in obtaining new knowledge and staying on top of current trends while earning CE hours outside of the annual meeting. Content can be viewed at any time using any device that connects to the Internet. Currently uploaded content includes video footage of the 2016 Plenary Session, several sessions from Academy 2017 Chicago, and posters from the 2016 Scientific Program. Users can also interact with the presenters via discussion threads.

Academy members have complimentary access to Academy Online, and non-members can access the content for a fee. Tests are also available for purchase online for $25 for select courses, allowing individuals to claim COPE-approved distance learning credits. To access Academy Online, visit http://learning.aaopt.org . ■

PATIENTS DON’T UNDERSTAND ONLINE VISION TESTS, DATA SAYS

New research from Transitions Optical indicates that while employees are interested in coverage of online vision tests, there is a lack of understanding regarding what these tests entail as well as a great need to educate employees on the importance of not missing their annual, comprehensive appointments.

According to the ninth annual Transitions Optical Employee Perceptions of Vision Benefits survey, half of employees not already enrolled in a vision plan said that they would be more likely to enroll if the plan “fully covered online eye exams.” Furthermore, six in 10 employees said that they would be more likely to get their eyes checked more often if their employer offered this coverage.

But despite this initial interest, the survey also found that most employees do not understand what online vision tests are; two-thirds are “unfamiliar with online eye exams” and nearly half are “very unfamiliar” with them. The research also revealed that four in 10 employees believe that “online eye exams that provide glasses or contact lens prescriptions are a suitable replacement for in-office eye exams.”

Furthermore, an alarming one in five employees currently enrolled in a vision plan is unlikely to use his or her benefits to get a comprehensive eye exam within the next year—even though annual exams are covered by most vision plans. ■

HAITI’S FIRST SCHOOL OF OPTOMETRY HAS OPENED

Haiti has the highest level of blindness and vision impairment in the region, and most of this is avoidable. It is three times higher than that of other countries in the region. An important reason for this is the critical shortage of qualified eyecare personnel. In a country of more than 10 million people, there are only three local optometrists.

This changed on Apr. 12, 2018, with the official opening of Haiti’s first ever School of Optometry & Vision Sciences at the Faculty of Medicine and Pharmacy of I’Université d’État d’Haïti. The school’s five-year degree program will seek to graduate 16 optometrists per year.

Additionally, Drs. Susan and Tom Quinn, Vision Source optometrists from Ohio and Optometry Giving Sight supporters for more than 10 years, travelled to Haiti to take part in the school’s first community outreach programs. ■

FDA CLEARS BAUSCH + LOMB ULTRA LENSES FOR EXTENDED WEAR INDICATION

Bausch + Lomb (B+L) announced that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has cleared the Bausch + Lomb Ultra family of contact lenses for extended wear of up to six nights and seven days of continuous wear. First introduced in the United States in 2014, Bausch + Lomb Ultra is the only brand of contact lenses that includes MoistureSeal technology, a patented combination of material and manufacturing process.

Bausch + Lomb Ultra contact lenses feature polyvinylpyrrolidone (PVP) for enhanced wettability, a high Dk/t (163), and low modulus (70). This family of contact lenses is also available for patients who have astigmatism and presbyopia. ■

CARECREDIT INTRODUCES PROMOTION TO HELP INCREASE OPTICAL SALES

CareCredit will be offering a new promotion from May 1 through July 31, 2018; optical patients can earn a $30 Prepaid Mastercard when they open a new CareCredit healthcare credit card, use it to make a purchase of just $200 or more of vision care and products, and then register online by Aug. 15, 2018.

Patients can use CareCredit to pay for a wide range of vision care and optical products, from routine eye exams to quality frames, premium lenses, sunwear, or an annual supply of contact lenses. During this promotion, practices accepting CareCredit will receive a Promotional Materials Kit that will include all of the patient education and team resources necessary to let patients know about the benefits of CareCredit and how new cardholders can earn the $30 Prepaid Mastercard. ■

GSLS AND INTERNATIONAL FORUM FOR SCLERAL LENS RESEARCH TO COLLABORATE

PentaVision LLC, parent company of the Global Specialty Lens Symposium (GSLS), announces that the Global Forum for Specialty Lens Research (GFSLR), formerly known as the International Forum for Scleral Lens Research (IFSLR), will take place at the conclusion of the 2019 GSLS on Jan. 27 at The Tropicana Hotel in Las Vegas.

Dr. Jan Bergmanson, who began the IFSLR two years ago, will continue in his role as director chair of the GFSLR, working in close collaboration with GSLS Education Committee Chair Dr. Jason Nichols. The mission of the meeting—to advance the discipline of scleral contact lens prescribing through the coordinated efforts of evidenced-based research and clinical practice—will be broadened to include all specialty/custom contact lenses.

The GFSLR is an open meeting that practitioners and laboratories interested in the latest developments and research attend to exchange ideas. The meeting is dedicated exclusively to research-supported presentations by some of the best-known experts working in the specialty lens field today.

The IFSLR is being rebranded as the Global Forum for Specialty Lens Research (GFSLR) to reflect both the expansion of its content scope and its association with the GSLS. ■

INDUSTRY BRIEFS

  • The Global Specialty Lens Symposium Planning Committee invites the submission of one-hour continuing education courses for consideration for the GSLS 2019, which will take place in Las Vegas from Jan. 24 to 27, 2019. The submission window will close at 5:00 p.m. ET on June 1, 2018. The committee seeks the submission of new and innovative courses on all aspects of contact lenses (such as materials, designs, lens care) in addition to related topics such as corneal and ocular surface disease, diagnosis and treatment approaches, and practice management. To submit an abstract, visit www.pentavisionevents.com/Forms/abstracts.asp .
  • Advanced Vision Technologies (AVT) and Al Vaske, founder of Lens Dynamic, Inc., announced a joint venture to provide a range of specialty contact lenses for irregular corneas. The AVT Team has launched a signature line of GP options, “Prime Lens Design,” which includes small and large corneal and scleral lens modalities. Mr. Vaske is known for bringing the Rose K and Dyna Intra-Limbal designs to the United States and saw the need for fitting sets to aid practitioners in fitting irregular corneas.
  • Australian contact lens company Gelflex has secured a deal to provide disposable contact lenses exclusively to Vision Source, a network of independent optometry practices. The deal, which is still pending U.S. Food and Drug Administration clearance of Gelflex’s lenses, is in addition to the company’s existing agreement to supply custom lenses to the more than 3,300 practices within the Vision Source network.
  • Valeant Pharmaceuticals International, Inc. announced that it will change its name to Bausch Health Companies Inc., effective in July 2018. As part of the name change, the company will roll out a new corporate brand identity in July 2018, which will include new imagery and a new web site, and will trade under a new symbol, BHC. Until that time, the company will continue to trade on the New York Stock Exchange and Toronto Stock Exchange under its present symbol, VRX.
  • The Cooper Companies, Inc. announced that Brian Andrews has been promoted to senior vice president, CFO, and treasurer of The Cooper Companies effective May 1, 2018. Mr. Andrews succeeded Albert White as CFO, who assumed the role of president and CEO on May 1, 2018. Mr. Andrews began his career at Cooper in 2006 as assistant treasurer and served in that role until 2013 when he was promoted to treasurer. He was promoted to vice president in 2015 and added the role of vice president, Global Logistics and Service for CooperSurgical in 2017.
  • Sight Sciences, Inc. announced the initiation of the OLYMPIA study, a pivotal trial to evaluate the safety and effectiveness of the TearCare System, a wearable therapeutic eyelid technology, in patients who have dry eye disease (DED). The randomized, controlled trial will evaluate the safety and effectiveness of the TearCare System in the treatment of DED in comparison to a daily regimen of combined warm compress therapy and lid massage. The trial will enroll 200 subjects at 10 centers in the United States. The primary endpoint is tear breakup time at one month, and several other endpoints will be evaluated to assess changes in the subjects’ dry eye signs and symptoms. The long-term safety and effectiveness of the treatment will be assessed by following subjects out to six months, at which point subjects will be re-treated with the TearCare System and followed for another six months.
  • Eaglet-Eye announced that contact lens industry veteran Tom Shone will be assisting Eaglet’s sales and marketing efforts. Mr. Shone, former president of Alden Optical, and prior to that president of CooperVision USA, will assist the Eaglet team with sales and marketing primarily in North America.
  • After testing Lumen Optical, a brick-and-mortal retail format, 1-800 Contacts has decided to close the remaining three stores in the Chicago area by the end of May. The company had opened the first Lumen Optical location in late 2016 and operated as many as four of the eyecare practices as of spring 2017. The Lumen Optical stores were about 3,000 to 3,500 square feet and featured new in-store looks.
  • Opternative, Inc. announced that it has partnered with WebEyeCare to provide access to online prescription renewal technology on the company’s website WebEyeCare.com . WebEyeCare customers will be able to receive an online prescription for glasses and contact lenses on the company’s website.
  • At ARVO 2018, the Centre for Ocular Research & Education (CORE) celebrated its 30th anniversary. A live video link connected the CORE team in Waterloo, ON with attendees in Honolulu, spanning the time difference with afternoon cake and morning cupcakes.