But the number of new contact lens wearers is flat.

(Press Release) NEW YORK -- Point-of-sale data from GfK shows continued strong momentum for daily contact lenses, helping to drive overall dollar growth in the U.S. soft contact lens market. But the number of new contact lens wearers remains flat overall.

GfK’s contact lens POS panel captures sales data from eye care practitioners throughout the U.S.

In January 2017, for the first time, monthly sales of daily contact lenses surpassed those of monthly lenses in dollar volume, reaching 38.1 percent market share – up from 31.5 percent in January 2016. In 2012, daily lenses accounted for just 17.9 percent of the market.

In the U.S. market, the daily lens segment continues to grow at a faster pace than any other modality, increasing 21 percent in dollar volume year over year. New products and innovation continue to drive daily lens sales surges; in 2016, 42 percent of the growth in the daily category was from product launches in the prior year.

GfK data also shows that the average price of a single daily lens has increased by over 10 cents since 2012, driven in part by the growing prevalence of higher-cost multifocal, toric and silicon hydrogel lenses within the modality. Daily multifocal lenses alone grew 45.4 percent in 2016 over the prior year, with more than three quarters (77.9 percent) of that growth driven by products launched in 2015.

New wearers needed

The continued momentum in the contact lens market does not mean new wearers – those who are prescribed lenses for the first time or after a lapse in use – are flooding into the space. In 2016, new lens wearers accounted for just over 21% of all contact lens fittings, according to GfK’s FITS panel, which tracks optometrist visits; that figure is down slightly versus the prior year and is in line with a four-year trend of contraction. Growth in total wearers was also negative, down 0.3% in 2016 over 2015.

While the daily contact lens segment continues to experience growth across the board, weekly/biweekly and monthly lenses are progressively declining or remaining flat in sales. The weekly/biweekly segment was down 2.8% in 2016 compared to 2015 – following a pattern of consistent single-digit declines for the category over the past nine years.

The monthly contact lens segment represents a large piece of the market that has been growing slowly but consistently. Sales increases in the category were slower than usual in 2016, though, registering less than a 1% rise in dollars over the prior year. The lack of new products entering the market in 2015 contributed to this slower growth. The second half of 2016 saw a deluge of new products in this space and could portend a growth rebound in the coming year.

Toric lenses ready to take off?

Through its FITS panel, GfK measures patient fittings for contact lenses, using records provided by thousands of opticians nationwide. FITS data often gives insight into trends months before they appear in POS data. During 2016, for example, the FITS panel showed more patients switching to daily contact lenses from weekly or biweekly SKUs (switching was up 9,9% over 2015); a similar FITS pattern of switching from monthlies to dailies also emerged, with switching up 12% in 2016 versus 2015.

According to GfK FITS data, toric contact lenses were the only category to increase in wearers from 2015 to 2016 (up 3.6%). As other lens types saw growth in daily lenses at the expense of their reusable counterparts, toric experienced upticks in daily, monthly and weekly lenses year over year (18.7%, 2.0%, and 1.7%, respectively) – indicative of a true increase in toric wearers. This pattern, combined with the new set of toric products slated to release throughout 2017, may aid in patient retention by supplying the astigmatic patient base with more options.

GfK’s Optics point-of-sale (POS) panel in the US captures contact lens purchasing data from brick-and-mortar opticians, independents as well as large chains. The company also maintains a FITS panel gathering prescribing information from optometrists. The two panels in combination provide a unique resource for manufacturers and retailers, measuring trends in the industry, as well as new product launch metrics/exposure.

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