J&J Vision Execs Provide Details on Sightbox CL Subscription Service

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J&J Vision executives Travis Rush (Sightbox), Joe Boorady (TearScience) and Peter Menziuso at the J&J briefing Friday.

CHICAGO—Johnson & Johnson Vision’s recent acquisition of the contact lens subscription service Sightbox is viewed as both a way to expand the overall contact lens category and to bring back some of the “respect” that eye health and eye exams should command in their role at the center of the contact lens experience, executives of the companies said at a briefing here Friday.

The J&J Vision media briefing – held during the third day of the American Academy of Optometry’s 96th annual meeting here at McCormick Place – was intended as a way to introduce the optical community to the two newest members of the J&J Vision portfolio, Sightbox and Tear Science.

It also provided an opportunity for Sightbox chief executive officer Travis Rush to reaffirm the subscription service’s commitment to “remain brand agnostic” in the contact lens marketplace. Sightbox offers consumers an opportunity to purchase a one-year’s supply of any brand of contact lenses and receive an annual eye exam for a $39 monthly fee (for bi-weekly and monthly contact lenses) or $89 (for daily lenses).

J&J Vision acquired the start-up Sightbox in September, as VMail reported, and agreed to acquire Tear Science in early August, as reported here. TearScience has FDA clearance for an office-based approach to imaging Meibomian glands and treating meibomian gland dysfunction, the leading underlying cause of dry eye disease, according to J&J Vision.

Commenting on the role of Sightbox, Johnson & Johnson Vision North America president Peter Menziuso said the company expects that Sightbox will drive growth in the contact lens category and help enhance the doctor-patient relationship. “We see this [acquisition] at J&J as a terrific category expander,” Menziuso said at the briefing. The CL subscription service is a way to drive CL patients who are not going into eyecare practices– either on a regular basis or at all – to get regular eye exams as part of their CL routine, he added.

Rush said he believes the recent “shift in the industry to a different lifestyle and a different way of getting things through the Internet” resulted in eye health losing some respect among consumers and CL wearers. “What we’ve created [with Sightbox] is a mechanism that reinforces the value of eye health and brings it back to the center of that conversation,” he said.

There are a host of online retailers of CLs that appeal to a specific audience, Rush said, “but what they are also doing that we feel is bad for them and unhealthy is that they are devaluing the eye doctor visit and [leaving] people with the impression that if they can see, all is well.”

Rush noted that people who are familiar with eyecare and the way optometry works, know this sentiment downplaying the importance of regular eye exams isn’t true.

He added that the Sightbox process allows all decisions about CL brand and modality to be in the hands of the optometrist. “We’re not pushing any brand … and that’s important and we want to make sure everyone understands that,” Rush said.

Asked about any “pushback” from ODs who are not comfortable with surrendering their CL supply business to Sightbox, Rush said that usually ODs become more open to the subscription service once they have a better understanding of how it works. ODs are paid their cash rate for all eye exams they complete for patients using the Sightbox subscription service, he noted. Rush said 92 percent of Sightbox’s roughly 9,300 members do not have a preferred optometrist and that the service has referred patients to more than 7,000 OD’s offices over the past two years.