J&J contact lens aims for push-back-the-menu crowd

Fri May 8, 2009 11:36am EDT
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By Ransdell Pierson

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Middle-aged Americans who have ditched their contact lenses because they can no longer read menus, or anything at close range, may now have a better alternative to grandfatherly reading glasses.

Johnson & Johnson is counting on its recently introduced product, Acuvue Oasys for Presbyopia, to bring back into the fold multitudes of people from their late 30's to early 50's whose blurry near-vision has been poorly served by contact lenses.

Moreover, the company hopes the new product will allow it to hold onto patients of that age group who have not already switched to eyeglasses -- giving J&J a chance to widen its lead in the $5.3 billion overall market for soft contact lenses.

"Our goal is to keep them and satisfy them through their entire lifetime," said Naomi Kelman, a top executive with J&J's Vistakon eye care division.

Presbyopia begins when the eye's natural lens gradually loses its flexibility, making it hard to focus on close objects. When the length of your arms becomes a factor in your ability to read or you strain to make things out in dim light, that milestone in the aging process has likely arrived.

The challenge for contact lenses is to provide good reading vision, while also being able to focus clearly at intermediate and far distances.

Many multifocal lenses -- including J&J's decade-old Acuvue Bifocal Contact Lenses -- have had limited appeal, according to Dr. Matthew Esperon, a Hackensack, New Jersey optometrist who has been prescribing J&J's newer presbyopia product.

"A lot of times with progressive contact lenses, patients see ghosting and shadows when they're reading an eye chart; but with these lenses patients are happier with the clarity of distance and reading," said Esperon.   Continued...