SAN ANTONIO – CooperVision continues to unravel why U.S. adoption of silicone hydrogel lenses is lower than in Europe, with practitioners reporting cost as the most common barrier to prescribing.
“Seventy-two percent of U.S. practitioners who wear daily disposable lenses themselves prefer to wear silicone hydrogels, but they are only prescribing those lenses 33% of the time to their patients,” Jennifer A. Palombi, OD, FAAO, senior manager, professional and scientific communication, CooperVision, said at a company-sponsored roundtable discussion during the American Academy of Optometry meeting.
“[The lower adoption rates for silicone hydrogels] don’t seem to be rooted in any failure to appreciate the benefits of the material,” Palombi added.
In Europe, the overall adoption rate for daily disposable lens fittings is high, according to Marcell McParland, CooperVision professional affairs director EMEA.
In some European markets, 76% of contact lens wearers are in daily disposables, with half of them in silicone hydrogel, McParland added. In the monthly lens sector, nearly 90% are in silicone hydrogel lenses.
“What we think is happening is that when practitioners are thinking about switching a patient from a monthly contact lens to a daily disposable lens, they are primarily worried about cost implications for the patient,” McParland said. “They won’t often do the right thing. They will upgrade the modality to a daily disposable but not upgrade the material to silicone hydrogel ... this is something that as an industry and company we need to partner with eye care providers on to help them understand they need to upgrade the modality and the material as well.”
The company continues to study the barriers practitioners are seeing in prescribing silicone hydrogels and will partner with practitioners to help them drive the conversation with patients, Palombi added.
Cost is the top barrier identified when asking providers what they thought of recommending silicone hydrogel lenses to patients.
Comfort is also an issue for practitioners, but Palombi thinks this misconception will fade as 93% or more in the U.S. are wearing silicone hydrogels successfully in frequent replacement lenses, according to a survey from CooperVision.
Other practitioners cite silicone allergy as a hindrance.
Lyndon Jones, OD, FAAO, has published research in this area that shows that silicone hydrogel lenses cannot induce a physiologic allergic response, Palombi said.
“I think that as we continue to broaden our perspective and look into the public eye more, we will continue to see an uptick in silicone hydrogel numbers,” she said. “I’m encouraged by the fact that we now see those numbers slowly but surely gaining.”
“I believe that CooperVision is well situated in this area, because in Europe we have three lenses in the silicone hydrogel category, and for those concerned about cost we have an entry level lens,” McParland added. “We have a nice portfolio of silicone hydrogel daily disposable lenses that helps eye care providers understand what we are trying to do — that we do believe that for the long-term they are the best material to go with.” – by Abigail Sutton
Disclosure: McParland and Palombi are employed by CooperVision.