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March 24 2010
Over 200 practitioners attended the London leg of this year’s Johnson & Johnson Vision Care roadshows when the event returned to the capital earlier this month, reports Emily McCormick
The free-to-attend seminars, which were this year themed ‘2020 is in sight’, explored the future of the contact lens market over the next ten years.
Speakers throughout the day focussed their presentations around the opportunities and business benefits that new wearers, upgrades and previous contact lens drop-out patients provide practitioners with.
Opening the conference, David Ruston, director of professional affairs for Johnson & Johnson in Western Europe, gave delegates the statistical facts of the UK contact lens market compared to the sector in America and Japan. Illustrating development prospects in this country, Mr Ruston revealed that 10% of people who require vision correction in the UK wear contact lens, whilst in America and Japan levels are around 35%.
Planting the idea of fitting young children with contact lenses, Mr Ruston explained why the largely untapped age group of under-16s offer new wearer possibilities for practitioners. “Research shows that the number of young people interested in contact lenses is higher than any other group.” And, “drop-out data shows that young people have the lowest drop-out rate,” he said.
Supporting the view that children should be considered for contact lenses from a much younger age than the UK average (which is between 14 and 15-years-old) Jeff Walline, an assistant professor at the Ohio State University College of Optometry, put forward a convincing argument as to why the 85%-90% of the audience who admitted to ‘not routinely fitting 10-year-olds’ should be.
Drawing on his own research which shows that children’s adaption rates to most types of contact lenses are similar to adults, Dr Walline reported that 80% of children fitted with alignment fitted gas permeable lenses and 75% of those fitted with OrthoK lenses adapted to them; both similar figures to those for adults.
Having stated the facts Dr Walline pointed out that just as contact lenses aren’t suitable for some adults they won’t be suitable for all children either. “What I don’t want you to tell your staff is ‘we will fit all children aged eight and over’. Age should not be a criteria.
“You all know a five-year-old who is capable of contact lens wear, you also know a 25-year-old who is not capable of contact lens wear,” he said. Look for motivation, maturity and parental enthusiasm as these are the factors that demonstrate if a patient will be successful or not, Dr Walline suggested.
Taking to the stage to talk on staff training DO Robin Reid – J&J professional affairs consultant for the north and Scotland – told practitioners that simply talking to patients about contact lenses would increase the number of wearers in their practice twofold. Seeing dubious faces in the audience, he backed-up his point with a first-hand experience. One practice he worked with, he said, spoke to 48% of its patients about contact lenses – 21% spoken to by staff and 27% actively enquiring – and 14% of its patients wore contact lenses. Yet, when staff spoke to 100% of patients about contact lenses the number of wearers increased to 26%.
Expanding on the benefits new contact lens wearers can bring a practice Elaine Grisdale, head of professional affairs at ABDO, focussed on the additional business opportunities new wearers offer through sunglasses sales.
A contact lens wearer from the age of 11, Ms Grisdale commented: “We are particularly bad in this country for promoting sunspecs and sunwear in our practices.” Yet, research shows that new contact lens wearers, after they have received a prescription, are more likely to go out within the first two days of their first contact lens fitting to buy a pair of new sunglasses because they can. “They haven’t been able to before and they now want a nice pair of sunspecs,” Ms Grisdale said before warning, “if you don’t offer them the chance to do that when they are in your practice making an appointment for their next check-up, then within 48 hours they will of found somewhere else to go and purchase them.”
In total, 33% of new contact lens wearers drop-out within a year, director of Brennan Consultants, Professor Noel Brennan revealed to the audience. And, around 60% of drop-outs state dry eye (10%) and discomfort (50%) as the reason for discontinuation. This is a huge problem, Professor Brennan commented.
To limit drop-outs, Professor Brennan urged practitioners to have their patients rate their level of comfort from one to 10, and advised that if the level is rated seven or below the chances of a patient not being successful is quite high. He said: “If patients are scoring eight or more though the chances are quite high that they will be successful. However, you must still follow-up and make sure you check how they are going as time goes on, particularly for end of day comfort.”
Half of astigmatics are completely unaware that contact lenses which could correct their vision properly exist, Mr Ruston reported.
Astigmatic patients who wear contact lenses are six-times more dissatisfied with their vision than other wearers. So, what can be done for them? Answering his own question, Mr Ruston revealed that J&J would soon launch a new lens that has 12 different axis and four different cylinders, representing 1,523 different parameters. It “hopefully means a bigger opportunity to satisfy those patients,” he said.
Not to be forgotten is the opportunity which 45-59-year-old patients offer practitioners – the presbyopic age group. Research shows that despite the majority of this age group needing vision correction they often ‘fall off the cliff’ for contact lens wear when they reach this age. With just 29% of this audience opting for contact lenses, Mr Ruston assured practitioners that J&J would soon be introducing – in a staged manner – a new concentric aspheric multifocal designed lens which takes into account variations in pupil diameter and can better cater for presbyopic patients.