Focus Series: Multifocal CL Options Appeal to Long-Term Wearers

NEW YORK—Recognizing the value of contact lenses within the total vision correct offerings of a practice, and factoring in the aging of traditional, long-time contact lens wearers, has supported high growth in the multifocal segment of the contact lens market in recent years.

With a range of new products coming onstream, practitioners are pointing out the features and benefits of multifocals to patients who are intrigued by new materials and designs. Doctors, too, are more confident in testing and fitting the newer multifocal CL designs and so are creating more patient dialog around them.

Overall, in 2013, VisionWatch estimated that 16 percent of the total U.S. population, and 21 percent of the vision correction population wear contact lenses. That is up from 10 years ago, when 17 percent of the vision correction population wore contacts.

Ten years from now, penetration is likely to reach 27 percent. The steady growth in contact lens usage has occurred as contact lenses have become more comfortable, safer and more convenient to wear. Contact lens technology innovation continues at a rapid pace, promising continued increases in penetration.

Contact lenses’ overall growth has been outpacing the general growth of the vision care market. In the 12 months ending December 2013, contact lens dollar sales grew 5.9 percent, according to VisionWatch, the Vision Council’s large-scale study of consumer purchasing behavior, to reach $4.2 billion, compared to $3.9 billion in 2012.

Read all the stories in this Vision Monday/Review of Optometric Business Focus Series,
“The Long-Term Value of the Contact Lens Patient.”
Click here to access the Digital Edition.

That percentage growth outpaces the total vision care services’ market’s growth of 3.9 percent during that year-long period. Much of that dollar growth came from the rapid rise of daily disposable modalities as well as new premium options like new multifocal CLs.

Some 20.4 percent of all contact lens wearers (those who wear CLs some or all of the time) were over the age of 45, according to VisionWatch. In fact, independents’ experience in the contact lens market is even more meaningful than other types of optical retailers.

In just the first half of 2013, through June, VisionWatch reported that independents’ dollar sales of contact lenses increased by 11.7 percent over the prior year.

Independents like Robert Sloan, OD, FAAO, of Premier Eyecare Associates, in Chillicothe, Mo., corroborate the value of contact lenses and, in his locality, the multifocal market. He reports, “My rural practice has an aging baby boom population and our greatest upside has been in the increasing success of offering multifocal contact lens to more and more candidates. We are not bashful about putting a trial pair on in the exam room to let the patient experience them instead of just talking about it.”

Sloan concluded, “It is very useful to send them to the Optical Department for fitting while wearing a pair of multifocal lenses. My greatest success has been with the complimentary inverse design lenses (Biofinity MF) and the option to fit a toric multifocal has expanded our success rate.”