Article Date: 12/1/2004

o.d. to o.d.
How Do You Choose When Every Product is "the Best"?
If you're looking for the best products, then move beyond the marketing hype and seek sound evidence.
BY WALTER D. WEST, O.D., F.A.A.O., Chief Optometric Editor

Okay, we've all been there: You read an article that proclaims the advantages of a contact lens or a contact lens solution, or a pharmaceutical product in any of the categories that we prescribe. You're familiar with these articles, each and every one discusses one particular product. And amazingly enough, regardless of the product or its manufacturer, whichever one the article features is the "best."

It's the same when you walk through an exhibit hall at any of the state, regional or national meetings and make a few stops in the booths of competing manufacturers. This scenario also plays out in your office as sales representatives, visit after visit, deliver their company's message.

The next best product

Companies recognize that many times you, as a practitioner, will believe that the best product is the one that was most recently presented to you, regardless of manufacturer. You'll use this product until a sales representative from a competing company visits and tells you the next "best" story.

You have to ask, "How can every product, regardless of its manufacturer, be the best?" They can't. It's as simple as that.

Of course, marketers continue to tell you that their products are the best. Certainly, I've never heard a company representative deliver a sales pitch that included the line, "Although my product is second best, I hope you'll give it a try."

So how can companies all make the claim that their product is the best? How do they, each and every one, support such claims once they've made them? How do practitioners fall into believing that each and every product is the best?

Show me the data

Perhaps it's because we don't ask enough questions, or at least not the right questions. Maybe we don't require that companies provide us with enough "evidence-based" information relative to product performance. Maybe we need to ask the companies to provide not only the evidence, but also the methodology by which it gathered the evidence.

Perhaps we should ask to see the product performance data as it existed before being "interpreted" and "presented" by the marketing department. Maybe we should ask if any unbiased academic research can substantiate or confirm product performance claims.

When product performance has been measured by only one method -- a method used only by the manufacturer -- perhaps we should ask why that method was used. We could then think about whether the testing could have been manipulated to influence the outcome, or we could ask whether a different methodology, one not developed by the manufacturer, would provide the same or similar results. Maybe we should use our scientific understanding of ocular and systemic physiology to professionally scrutinize the messages that any company wants to deliver.

Identify good companies

It's not that any of us are trying to identify companies that would attempt to distract from the facts with misinformation. Rather, we're interested in identifying those companies whose presentations of product performance focus on the facts -- facts that evidence-based science can back up.


Optometric Management, Issue: December 2004