Throw away those Progressives?

hand-eye-drops-bottle-800-thumb-290xauto-635 (002)Swiss drug maker Novartis AG (owner of Alcon), whose $60bb in annual revenue makes them the largest drug company in the world, said on December 20th that it had reached a definitive agreement to acquire Fort Worth, Texas-based Encore Vision.  Encore Vision has been focused on developing a treatment for presbyopia.  That’s right, a medical “cure” for presbyopia.

The clients of Cleinman Performance Partners have long been aware of this emerging technology and the potential implications.  I’ve shared this development with our Network for much of the past decade.  The firm’s president and chief steward, Bill Burns, is a former associate of our firm.  Yours truly connected Bill with Encore’s founder (and Cleinman client #1), Dr. Ron Blum.  It was Dr. Blum’s Egg Factory that provided the original genesis for the idea; the “egg” that Bill Burns has nurtured to success.  Congratulations, Bill!

Novartis will take over the development of Encore’s eye drop, currently under the name EV06.  The drop softens the lens and has shown positive results in its phase I and phase II clinical trials.

So, what are the implications of this potential cure?

Our industry is growing, the result of an aging population, the impact of digital devices and an expansion of awareness.  Anyone connected with our industry recognizes that the prime economic engine of the eyewear segment is spectacles. The majority of spectacle profits for our entire industry are from the sale of progressive lenses.

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North America eyewear market size by product, 2012-2022 (USD Million)

So does the result of the announcement of this potential cure represent a threat to both retail optical and wholesale labs?  Only time will tell.  But suffice to say that we’ve had these threats before.  Indeed, back in the 1970s industry prognosticators called for the death of eyewear retailing resulting from corneal refractive surgery.  We all know what happened there.

Suffice it to say that new technologies are coming into our market at almost warp speed.  While Encore’s product is 3 or more years away, it will likely not cause revolution.  As has the soft contact lens, plastic lenses, progressive lenses, refractive surgery and other technologies, the innovations coming into the market, as has occurred in the past, will simply help our industry grow.

So, don’t head for the hills quite yet.  While Encore’s presbyopia cure represents an historical milestone, and an exciting opportunity for optometry, this analyst doubts that it will cause mass market turmoil.

Whether through a drug system like that which Encore represents, or genomics, artificial intelligence or other platforms, our world is rapidly changing.

Are you prepared?

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