Daily disposables – the way of the future
Disposable soft contact lenses were launched onto the Australian contact lens market in 1989. Interestingly, for a few years before the introduction of disposable lenses several companies had operated frequent replacement schemes, with the interval between lens replacements generally being three or six months. These frequent replacement programs were not that successful and it was only with the introduction of disposable lenses – and the subsequent shorter interval between lens replacements – that the concept of ‘frequent lens replacement’ was truly embraced by contact lens patients. From that time, the use of disposable contact lenses has become more and more popular to the point that presently over 98% of soft contact lenses prescribed in Australia are disposable.
The first disposable lens released in Australia was the Acuvue lens from Johnson and Johnson. This was a two weekly replacement lens. Since then many different disposable soft contact lenses have been introduced onto the Australian market, with the replacement interval being one of monthly, two weekly or daily. Strictly speaking, both two weekly and monthly lenses are not disposable as they are not single use and they do require lens maintenance over the period they are used. In the same way, it could be argued that daily disposable lenses – which are replaced after a single use and therefore do not require any lens cleaning or disinfection – are the only truly disposable lens. However, in the contact lens vernacular the term ‘disposable contact lens’ has come to represent a lens which is discarded before its usable life is complete (usually within the first month of its use).
I love daily disposable contact lenses. With their advantages of no lens maintenance and a fresh lens being inserted onto the eye each day, there has been a considerable increase in the use of these lenses over the last five years. As recently as five years ago, daily disposable lenses only constituted about 10% of the disposable lens market. Today – roughly speaking – the three different lens replacement modalities (daily, two weekly and monthly) occupy about the same percentage of the contact lens market. It would be expected that the use of daily disposable lenses will continue to grow, especially if one considers the examples of other countries such as the United Kingdom and Singapore (just to name a couple) where over 60% of all disposable lenses prescribed are dailies. As the cost of daily disposables – which has been a prohibiting factor in the past – continues to come down and more types of dailies are launched onto the market, the pundits are predicting that in five years over 90% of all disposable lenses prescribed will be daily disposable.