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Retailers should look to eye care to whet sales

Michael Johnsen ...
To meet an expected lift in unit sales in coming...
Alcon Labs’ Systane Balance eye drops ...

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Between lens solutions, eye drops, and related nutritionals and accessories, eye care represents $1 billion in OTC sales across mass channels (excluding Walmart), according to SymphonyIRI Group data for the 52 weeks ended June 13. Those sales currently are climbing at a respectful 3.6% clip, even as the number of units selling through food, drug and mass outlets (excluding Walmart) remains relatively flat—140.6 million units, up slightly by 0.5%.

Retailers can expect to see a sharp lift in unit sales in the coming years, eye care suppliers shared with Drug Store News, and that’s across both lens care solutions and eye care treatments for such conditions as dry eye.

For example, the number of patients looking to use contacts is on the rise, according to Lisa Van-DeMark, VP brand marketing at Bausch & Lomb. “[Penetration] is about 17% of households,” she added. With the growing popularity around disposable lenses and multifocal contact lenses, however, contact lens use is expected to grow. “We are really looking at keeping [the] consumer into contact lenses well into [his or her] 40s and 50s.”

Bausch & Lomb last month launched the latest innovation in lens care solutions, Biotrue, which is formulated to work like the eyes with three bio-inspired attributes. The lens solution is pH-balanced to match healthy tears, helping to maintain the eye’s natural condition; is formulated with hyaluronan, a natural lubricant found in the eye that helps attract moisture; and helps keep certain beneficial tear proteins active longer, maintaining the eye’s natural antimicrobial activity.

Bausch & Lomb has pieced together a multimillion-dollar ad campaign to support Biotrue, with a focus on such social media platforms as Facebook and Twitter. “Also at retail, you’re going to see very strong support at the point of sale, messaging to the consumer [and] letting [him or her] know that something new is on the shelf,” VanDeMark added.

With regard to dry eye, there is the aging of the baby boomers, the oldest of whom turn 64 this year. “The need for dry eye skews older—50 and above,” said Michael Kingeter, director of retail sales for the consumer products division at Alcon. “One of the leading contributors is menopause,” he added.

With increased age comes increased use of prescription drugs, many of which contribute to dry eye, noted Neil Donnenfeld, CEO of Advanced Vision Research. “Certain types of drugs used to treat high blood pressure, such as diuretics, [but also] antihistamines and decongestants, birth control pills [and] certain antidepressants,” he said, could potentially contribute to dry eye. “Another big factor is diabetes, diabetes causes dry eye,” Donnenfeld said.

Dry eye impacts up to 11% of people ages 30 to 60 years, and 15% of those 65 years or older, according to the International Task Force assembled by the Johns Hopkins University-Wilmer Eye Institute. Today, that translates to roughly 12 million Americans, and that’s just before the median-aged baby boomer falls within prime demographics at greater risk for dry eye.

Alcon Labs recently introduced a lubricating eye drop—Systane Balance—that helps lubricate the eye across the three layers of the tear film, Kingeter said. “Up until now, OTC products have only treated, at the most, two of those layers,” he claimed.

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