Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Has the 1-800-CONTACTS Bubble Burst?

Just like the dotcom bubble burst in March of 2000, so will the 1-800-CONTACTS bubble soon do the same, if it hasn't already. The cracks are already beginning to show. Online contact lens sales are down anyway, and Alcon and J&J both recently announced "unilateral pricing policies", i.e. no longer will WalMart or 1-800-CONTACTS (or anyone else) get special pricing. For the retailers it means everyone is back on a level playing field and in-office convenience now trumps online bulk pricing. Uh oh, 1-800's. That was their niche and they just lost it. Local retailers get to price-match the online retailers and WalMart can no longer afford to sell $12.59 boxes of Acuvues. I am super broken up about it, too [/sarcasm]. 1-800-CONTACTS talks a big game but consistenly makes the prescribing doctors mad by marketing directly to the consumer, having some questionable-at-best business practices designed to ("IMO", see what I did there?) circumvent the verification portion of state optometry laws, and backing legislation (with big dollars!) that would allow opticians to refract and Rx's to be avilable w/o seeing a doctor. Does this sound like a company that has patients best interests in mind? I find it um, rewarding... yeah that's the word I'm looking for... that the contact lens companies have finally figured out that WalMart and 1-800-CONTACTS are not their friends. They never were, but the manufacturers were wooed by the promise of HUGE sales if they offered BIG/deep price cuts. What, it's not working anymore? You don't say? 1-800-CONTACTS in its heyday openly taunted optometrists with their advertising (remember the "your eyes are not special" and "the number is on the box" ad campaigns?), and even went so far as to have employees (I won't name names but his initials are "M.C.") come onto optometry related bulletin boards and taunt/argue with/make fun of OD's and their attempts at competing for sales. They basically made themselves detested by the profession and it finally, finally is coming back to bite them. Can't say I'm too surpised, nor am I upset. Maybe I'll call 1-800-JUST-DESERTS and talk about it with them. Edit: I just found out that the #specialeyes ad campagn is ongoing.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Google/Alcon Partner on Blood-Sugar Monitoring & Autofocus Contacts

Potentially big news in the contact lens world. Novartis ("Alcon" is the contact lens division of Novartis) has partnered with Google to work on contact lenses that monitor blood glucose levels, and also "autofocus" lenses for presbyopia. Both of those would be really exciting! Google Enlists Novartis To Ship Glucose-Sensing And Autofocus Smart Contact Lenses In As Little As 5 Years

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Coopervision to Purchase Sauflon

Coopervision to purchase Sauflon I have been down on Coopervision a little of late. I don't think they're a terrible company or anything, I just get a little tired of their stupid private-label game (see blog post about private labeling here) and I don't think they have superior products at this time. Their big lens "Biofinity" is, IMO, inferior to it's 2 major competitors (J&J's Acuvue Oasys and Alcon's Air Optix Aqua). Biofinity is not a *bad* lens, it's just not special enough for me to Rx it over what I consider to be other, superior products. However apparently they just inked a deal to buy Sauflon...a small, UK-based soft contact lens company. Sauflon is interesting for sure. Back before silicone hydrogels got big (about 2005), I really liked their non-silicone lens Sauflon 55UV. It had a great design and was very comfortable. I kind of forgot about them once silicone got big, tho because they didn't have a silicone lens (because they are a smaller company...not as "cutting edge" with new products, etc). But now I see that Coopervision is purchasing them. I hope Cooper keeps their products, as I see now that Sauflon has a silicone hydrogel daily disposable (one of only 3 I can think of available in the US), as well as a silicone hydrogel daily disposable TORIC (there is not another one of these on the US market at all...this is a unique product). Sauflon also makes contact lens solutions including a competing hydrogen peroxide soft contact lens cleaning/storage solution that compares with Alcon's Clear Care. That's interesting because Coopervision is not currently in the "solutions" market. Are they going to "GET" into it? That'd be kind of cool. Basically for a company who doesn't have a single product that I routinely Rx, maybe if they widely distribute Sauflon's products they could have a niche in the market. Now if they'd only drop the private label game. Here is the Sauflon press release about the acquisition.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Comments on This Blog

I recently realized that I wasn't being notified when someone commented. So I just looked and I have 120 pending comments! Wow! I cannot respond to them all, so for those of you who asked questions and I "never answered" - I'm very sorry. I'll try to stay on top of it better. Again, I didn't even know people were reading, much less commenting! I just approved nearly all the comments. I deleted the obvious spam ones but the rest got approved. I tried to answer a few of the more important ones...if I skipped yours I'm very sorry. I didn't do more than just scan thru the 120 avaiting approval. Sorry! I'll be better, I promise.

Samsung Galaxy S5 Review

I'm an Android/Google guy. I hate iTunes and I despise the constant time-consuming iTunes and iOS updates. So for the last 2 years I've had a Motorola Droid Razr M. It was great! It did everything my wife's iPhone 5c did, and for approx $250 less. We have repeatedly done a side-to-side direct comparison of the Speaktoit Assistant android app vs Siri, and my Assistant (whom I named "Victoria" and given an adorable British accent to) wins every time. Siri comparatively sucks, especially at voice recognition and pronunciation. Anyhoo I digress. My Droid started losing power. Wouldn't hold a charge, and it wasn't an app problem (believe me I looked). Well the Razr M has no removable battery so I was stuck. I was due for an upgrade so off we went and I got a Galaxy S5. It's smooth! Here are my initial DISLIKES: 1) the phone antenna kind of sucks. My wife's iPhone 5c is better, my old Razr M was better, and my old-old iPhone 4 was better. We live in the country where signal is not great, and not having a great antenna is disappointing. It still works at my house on 1 bar of signal, but obviously I would rather have 3 bars like my Razr did. 2) it's huge. People love big screens but I could do without. It's huge in my slacks pocket at work, and I will never be a belt-clip guy so I'm stuck. I hope I get used to it but right now it feels massive. 3) One of my fav apps is not compatible. My Guitar, a music app that allows me to play around with songwriting by strumming chords in any key. So disappointed because I used the heck out of that app. 4) I don't like the "plug" that has to be removed to charge and reinserted when done. I understand WHY I have to do this and I like it being waterproof (see "likes"), but the thing is annoying to plug in and out and I would rather not have to. Conversely here are my LIKES: 1) it's waterproof! If i get it wet I'm ok! 2) the screen is big, bright, clear and easy to see 3) the battery is removable. 3) it's fast fast fast 4) all kinds of customizable settings like easily using a current mp3 file as a ringtone. 4) it's Google so all my contacts/settings/apps were instantly available (no chugging away on stupid iTunes). Sign in and BAM! It's done. This is the best part about Google. 5) transfered by existing microSD card so all my music is literally instantly available (again, no lenghty iOS update 1st and no time consuming "sync" or re-download needed. BAM! Instantly rockin'. I'm still getting used to it. I like it! I wish it was smaller.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Are American Optical Patients "Spoiled"?

I think a lot of them are. I'm not a lib, so generally when someone insults the American public and announces they are "spoiled" (on gas that's under $5/gal, etc) I am not a fan, but I think a lot of Americans demand *excellent* acuity at *all* distances and thru *every* optical device, simply because they have access to it and can afford their eye care. MOST people worldwide who are 20/25+ and have an Rx of low astigmatism do not wear glasses or contacts. At all, ever. But Americans go to the OD and complain of headaches, eyestrain and "blur" (some of them do not know what actual blur is), and get glasses made that are plano-0.75x097. They have the means and the motivation to see that well when most others worldwide do not get glasses made unless there is a serious visual deficit (i.e. -2.50 or more of myopia, for example). And why not? I mean if you have the money and the ability to see 20/15, why shouldn't you? That's usually easy to do as an OD and those patients have a right to see as well as I can make them see and as well as they can afford to see, right? That is no problem. The problem arises when those same patients rudely demand to see 20/15 all the time thru glasses, soft contacts, at the computer after 15 hours, during their soccer match, at the beach, thru the "sides" of their progressives, etc...all with incredible comfort and little effort. It would also be nice if it was inexpensive. Some of this stuff is impossible. But they've become accustomed to seeing literally 20/15 and they *will not* be told that sometimes they are going to have to "just deal with" less. They've become optically "entitled" to see better than 20/20, and they make for some frustrating patients. I am finding ways of politely telling them they're "too picky" w/o using those words. I occasionally will see 3-4 of those patients in a row and it makes for a bad day. I'd much rather have the high myopes who actually have what I consider a bonafide medical/visual problem that I can solve, not another 27 year old completely healthy computer user with half a diopter of astigmatism and "horrible" headaches, "terrible" (20/20) vision, etc etc. It's exhausting. The counter, of course, is that they're paying for my time so they should be able to complain about whatever they want, right? But let me tell you that we docs don't always consider every complaint valid. Some of them just come across as spoiled and entitled.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Day 22 of Major Network Problems

The internet is briefly working this afternoon so I will use this time to tell you why I haven't updated this blog in a month: horrible network problems. It's bad. We've done everything, including professional help, and made little progress. Just an FYI. Sorry! Wish I could say I had hope for having it be fixed soon but I cannot.