NEW ORLEANS – Optometry has become a source of big business for ophthalmic companies over the past decade, with about 40 to 60% of sales coming from optometric channels, industry leaders said here last week in a panel discussion at OIS@SECO 2019.
Allergan has spent the last 10 years focused on partnering with optometry and helping develop the medical side of that practice, said Dave Gibson, associate vice president for customer development and consumer eye care for the company. When he started 10 years ago, optometry was responsible for about $600 million in therapeutics across all classes, he said. That figure is now more than $3 billion. Allergan is working with optometrists on management of glaucoma, dry eye disease, and presbyopia. “Optometry should own these particular disease states,” Gibson said.
Catering to Optometry’s Three Distinct Channels
There are three distinct channels in optometry, said Calvin Roberts, MD, senior vice president and chief medical officer at Bausch + Lomb: corporate optometrists who work for large companies like Pearle Vision or Costco and who are primarily interested in products such as glasses and contact lenses, independent optometrists who focus on vision but are getting more into the medical side of practice, and those embedded in surgical practices. B+L dispatches different sales representatives to each channel, with some talking to corporate optometrists about vision care, some talking to independent optometrists about vision care as well as products like vitamins for age-related macular degeneration and redness relief drops, and others speaking with surgical suite optometrists about premium intraocular lenses as well as postoperative therapeutics such as anti-inflammatory drops. “More and more, this is becoming glaucoma-driven,” Dr. Roberts said.
Other companies said they take a different approach.
“We’re agnostic to practice setting,” said Allergan’s Gibson. “We really look at the therapeutic areas and therapeutic prescribing … At the end of the day, it’s not really where they practice but how they want to practice. What’s their desire to treat patients medically? What’s their attitude and confidence level? Everything we’re doing is trying to raise their game.”
Takeda follows the same philosophy, said Robert Dempsey, vice president and head of the ophthalmic unit at the company, which focuses on the medical model. “Independent of where you are, we’re going to focus on you,” he said. Johnson and Johnson Vision also sends the same sales reps to each channel, said Joseph Boorady, OD, FAAO, vice president of ocular surface disease for the company.
Optometry and Dry Eye Channel
Looking at the dry eye pipeline, Dempsey said investment in the optometric channel is likely to grow further over the next three to five years with a number of companies trying to come up with products and programs to address the condition.
In encouraging eye-care providers to expand their reach, it helps to use peer-to-peer education, panelists said. This can be done by having providers listen to or work alongside a colleague who has experience with a particular product. But eye-care providers also must consider their practice’s needs, Dr. Boorady stated.
“You really have to evaluate where innovation will make an impact on the outcomes of your patients,” he said. “Not every innovation is perfect for every practice.”
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