Optometric Management Tip # 210 - Wednesday, January 25, 2006
Contact Lens Care Products
It is certainly easy to take contact lens solutions for granted. We all pretty much pick one
or two brands and they become our solutions of choice for dispensing to new contact lens
patients. We also keep sample kits in the office of some alternative brands that may work
for problem solving with symptomatic patients. And that’s about it for most of us. I
recently heard a tip, however, that made me think differently about contact lens products,
so I’m passing it on this week.
I attended the Contact Lens and Eyecare Symposium (CLES) in Orlando last week and my friend
and colleague, Dr. Joe Barr, presented a very interesting lecture titled “Contact Lens State
of the Industry”. Joe is editor of Contact Lens Spectrum and the e-newsletter, Contact Lenses
Today, which are sister publications of Optometric Management and this Management Tip of the
Week. What made the presentation interesting were Joe’s insightful comments and observations
as he summarized the latest developments in contact lenses and lens care. There were many
practical tips woven into this lecture, but I’ll share one with you here.
You are likely familiar with the concept of store brands or house brands and you may have even
purchased some yourself in various product lines. Large retail chain stores, from Wal-Mart to
Walgreens and every other one you can name, have their own brands which are placed on the shelf
next to major brands for the same personal product category. The major retailer simply makes a
bulk purchase from a major industry supplier and private labels the product with their own brand
name, and sells it for much less than the market leader.
If you’re buying aspirin, the store brand actually has a great reputation as a smart consumer
buy, because you can make the case that the product is the same as the leading brand. Because
of this, we may generalize that it is likewise OK if our patients save some money and buy the
store brand contact lens multipurpose solution. That is actually not the case at all.
Advancements in technology
The main goal for the store brand is low price, and it is very likely that the formulation
available at the best price is decades-old technology. There truly have been many major
improvements in recent years by all the solution manufacturers in the disinfection process and
for improving comfortable lens wear. It takes many years to move the newest products through
research and to gain FDA approval. The major multipurpose brands have all had several refinements
and improvements under their own banner label, which means they are not the same as they used to
be. These latest iterations are not available as a mass retail brand.
Not broke – don’t fix
It’s easy to be a nice person and just nod in agreement when a patient says they use the big box
store brand. Many doctors may not even bother to ask the patient what brand of solution they use
at annual exam visits. This relates to the “not broke – don’t fix” approach. But your patient
deserves your expertise and guidance, and caring is what can set your practice apart. The store
brands are not “the same as” the major brand.
We should care about the brand and the formula because our patients can develop eye infections
and they often suffer from mild discomfort, dry eyes and allergies with contact lens wear.
Solutions truly can make a difference. Even if the patient has no complaints, we should care
about the lens solution because 1) there is a preventative component and 2) some minor discomfort
is accepted as normal and the patient doesn’t know any better, thus no complaint.
I’m going to give my contact lens wearers the personal touch in my practice by revamping our
contact lens dispensing handout sheet to contain additional practical information about contact
lens wear and care. When you think about it, there may be many factors for successful contact
lens wear that we’re not communicating.
Best wishes for continued success,
Neil B. Gailmard, OD, MBA, FAAO
Chief Optometric Editor, Optometric Management