100 Million and Still Going Strong
Varilux Comfort becomes the first progressive lens to sell over 100 million pairs worldwide
By Pete Hanlin, ABOM, LDO, Technical Marketing Manager, Essilor
Varilux Comfort lenses may be the single most profitable ophthalmic lens product in the history of private practice optometry. Each month, practitioners in the United States prescribe nearly 200,000 pairs. In fact, in 2009, the 100 millionth pair of Varilux Comfort lenses will be dispensed.
A large part of Varilux Comfort's success is due to the "dispenser-friendly" nature of the design. Nearly all patients fit with Varilux Comfort lenses are able to successfully adapt (nonadapts have historically run well below 3%). To put this statistic in perspective, it should be noted that immediately prior to the arrival of Varilux Comfort, roughly 30% to 40% of the patients fit with progressive lenses were unable to adapt to their new eyewear. As a result, practitioners had to refit many of their patients back into their previous bifocals or near vision "readers," which resulted in lower profits and — more importantly — reduced patient satisfaction.
The technological "leap" which allows Varilux Comfort to enjoy such a high adaptation rate was a result of the process used to develop the design. Beginning in the late 1980s, Essilor developed a design process called the "Dioptric Loop" to create new progressive designs. This process, which is still used today to develop new Varilux designs, includes these 5 steps:
- identification of a visual behavior
- development/optimization of a design technology, which addresses the behavior
- development of test lenses
- clinical study of the new design
- Once the clinical results are collected, the process is repeated until a significant improvement in design performance has been achieved.
During the development of Varilux Comfort, the specific visual behavior identified was related to the head posture used for reading. Specifically, designers realized people naturally look down when reading. A person who doesn't wear eyeglasses will tilt the head down to read (approximately 45°). However, most progressives require the wearer to "keep the head up" while looking down with the eyes (allowing only 30° of head movement). As a result, the wearer is required to look down 15° with the eyes, which is unnatural (and resulted in many progressive non-adapts prior to Varilux Comfort).
Varilux Comfort lenses allow the wearer to use 35° and clinical tests demonstrated this was one important factor in achieving adaptation. The design technology that makes this possible is represented by a mathematical algorithm, which makes the progression short, yet reduces peripheral swim. This technology was patented (US pat. #5488442, #5270745, #5272495).
Varilux Comfort lenses are also extremely easy to fit — a fact appreciated by optometrists and opticians who are new to the field. As with all progressive lenses, it's recommended to provide monocular PDs and fitting heights, but the "forgiving" nature of Varilux Comfort lenses allows the design to work well even when measurements are less than perfect. In addition, Varilux enjoys the industry's largest group of Brand Consultants who are available to train practitioners in the recommendation, fitting and dispensing of progressive lenses.
Since 1994, Varilux Comfort lenses have been the best selling PAL design in the United States, which is pretty amazing considering they�ve been primarily sold only in private optometric practices. It's the combination of innovative design, a complete range of materials, and the expertise of thousands of eyecare professionals have provided superior vision for over 100 million patients, with millions more to come.
Pete Hanlin is a licensed dispensing optician and is certified by the American Board of Opticianry as a Master Optician. Prior to joining Essilor, he dispensed thousands of Varilux Comfort lenses during his career.