Article Date: 9/1/2006

o.d. to o.d.
Corporations Change ... When Should Optometrists?

When our direction isn't crystal clear, there is one guidepost that can always lead us the right way.
BY WALTER D. WEST, O.D., F.A.A.O. Chief Optometric Editor

I was interested to read the press release from 1-800 CONTACTS dated July 26, 2006. In part the press release read, "ClearLab, a wholly-owned subsidiary of 1-800 CONTACTS, INC. (Nasdaq: CTAC) unveiled its new AquaSoft Singles, a milestone product that ClearLab expects will revolutionize single-use contact lens wear through an innovative flat pack for contact lenses."

Just the facts

A media event was held in conjunction with the press release and included international industry experts Nathan Efron, D.Sc., M.C.Optom, F.A.A.O., Steve Newman, Chief Technology Officer for ClearLab and Jonathan Coon, President of 1-800-CONTACTS. I listened with interest as Dr. Efron and Mr. Newman described the difficulty that patients have in understanding and handling contact lens cases, solutions and labeling.

I had to agree with everything they said as an accurate description of the issues that contact lens patients deal with. In fact, many of the points mentioned are things we all recognize as the reasons that many contact lens patients discontinue contact lens wear.

What does this innovative approach to contact lens packaging and labeling mean to contact wearers in the United States? Right now it doesn't mean much. ClearLab does not currently do business in the United States. Now you have to wonder, with the United States being the largest contact lens market in the world why ClearLab isn't marketing in the United States. (See above, "ClearLab, a wholly-owned subsidiary of 1-800 CONTACTS.") At the media event, Jonathan Coon, President of 1-800 CONTACTS, indicated that ClearLab needs to be spun-off from 1-800 Contacts, as a stand-alone entity and also needs a strategic partner.

Sink or swim?

Now that brings me to another question: Do you think any contact lens product — no matter how innovative it might be — can be successful in the United States if it's origin is in anyway tied to 1-800 CONTACTS?

We optometrists always say that our prime concern is our patient's best interest. So, if the ClearLab AquaSoft Singles were the best alternative for your patient, would you prescribe them or look for an alternative?

Actions speak loudest

My reason for writing on this topic and raising these questions is to point to the blurring of the lines between what we have always said relative to what we often do. In the future of optometry and the entire ophthalmic industry, products will come and go, newly developed technology will replace that which is traditional and corporate entities will transition and morph.

The right direction

The best guide that we can have relative to any development in our industry, our profession and our practice, is to always focus on the patient first. That's the direction that has brought us this far and will take us into the future.

Optometric Management, Issue: September 2006