Article Date: 4/1/2007

BY JENNIFER KIRBY, senior associate editor

Lens Update

The year 2005 to 2006 in the contact-lens market revealed the following stories: The amount of contact lenses dispensed increased regardless of the lens-solution recalls, and silicone hydrogel contact lenses continue to drive the overall market.

These findings are based on data obtained from Health Products Research, Inc. (HPR), an inVentiv Health company based in Somerset, New Jersey, specializing in market research and analysis for the pharmaceutical and health-care products industries.

Consumers stick with CLs

According to the numbers from HPR, consumers weren’t swayed from purchasing contact lenses in 2005 to 2006, despite the fact that certain contact lens-care solutions were recalled for a variety of reasons from bacterial contamination to standardization issues.

Instead, the number of wearers actually increased from 27 million to 29 million. (HPR’s numbers don’t capture the number of consumers who order contact lenses from mail order vendors, such as 1–800 CONTACTS. This is why the company’s numbers are lower than other industry sources, which have cited between 30- and 35 million contact-lens wearers.)

“We [HPR] do track lens solution kits, and most definitely, the [ReNu with MoistureLoc] recall had a significant impact on the total category of solutions. With the discontinuation of a specific solution, there was a significant shift to other brands, and the overall market was just very flat for a period of time,” says James Charnetski, vice president and managing director of market research at HPR. “However, I wouldn’t feel comfortable saying that the recall of lens solutions had a detrimental impact on lens dispensing because the data certainly don’t support that.”

“We (1–800 CONTACTS) agree that the solutions recall didn’t have a detrimental impact on the lens business,” says Kevin K. McCallum, chief marketing officer for 1–800 CONTACTS.

The silicone hydrogel switch

A total of five million people switched from a non-silicone hydrogel lens to a silicone hydrogel lens between 2005 and 2006, according to data from HPR. (See “Previous Lens Type by Year below.”)

“Obviously the biggest impact on contact-lens use has been and continues to be the introduction of silicone hydrogel lens materials,” says Mr. Charnetski. “Giv-en the efficacy of the silicone hydrogel lens relative to the historical lens types, this growth is a natural trend within the market. Having said that,” if one were to look at a month-to-month trend, one would see a gradual uptake of silicone hydrogel lenses at the expense of the non-silicone hydrogel lens category, which is a pretty powerful story (See “Lens Materials by Patient Share,” page 27.)

Mr. McCallum agrees: “Silicone hydrogel lenses are rapidly taking market share in the category.”

Another powerful story: Between 2005 and 2006, bifocal lens use increased from 5.5% to 5.9%, and toric lens use increased by 18% to 19.4% (see “Toric/Bifocal/Spherical 2006,” below).

“While this is not a huge shift, if one were to look at data from three years ago, one would see that the trend in using these lens-es is on the rise, and I believe this can be attributed to the fact that these prescriptions are now available in silicone hydrogel lens materials,” says Mr. Charnetski. “Further, if you look at the volume of spherical lenses, the volume actually went up from 21 million to 22 million, it’s just that the other two categories grew at a much faster rate.”

Mr. McCallum says, however, that when assessing the bifocal/ toric segment, “the bigger shift was the shift between brands vs. growth in the sub-category.”

Trend toward daily use and weekly use lenses

“We’re finding that on a gross lens standpoint, the average patient is actually consuming more lenses on an individualized basis than in previous years, so what is happening is that the modality is trending more toward daily use or weekly use where it used to be monthly,” says Mr. Charnetski. “So, through the course of a year, a given patient may go in and get lenses four to six times, and their usage through the course of the year might average out to six to 12 lenses. In addition, our data shows that the total number of revenue lenses dispensed to patients has increased in 2006 when compared with 2005.”


A spokesperson for HPR says their contact-lens statistics seem to indicate that the daily wear category will continue to grow in 2007, especially as more silicone hydrogel lenses are introduced to the market within that category.

Further, extended-wear lenses may reach a plateau or even decrease this year as they currently account for less than 10% of the total contact-lens market.

Overall patient visits and revenue sold may also increase due to the growing popularity of daily-wear lenses. (Remember: Many people cannot wear extended-wear lenses due to discomfort and the risk of infection.)

Source: Contact Lens Report (2005–2007), Health Products Research, an inVentiv Health Company.

Next, Jeffrey Johnson, O.D/Wall-Street research analyst provides you with his assessment of the contact lens industry in terms of finances and the future of the market.

Optometric Management, Issue: April 2007