Silicone Hydrogel is for Everyone!

CooperVision leads the way in SiHy 1 day.

We’re now 20 years into the silicone hydrogel revolution and silicone materials are now available in every wearing modality and in every type of vision correction (hyperopic, myopic, astigmatic and presbyopic) (Figure 1).  It wasn’t always this way though, in fact, only 10 years ago there were very limited options for SiHy 1 day in the U.S. market.   CooperVision saw the tremendous growth opportunity in the 1 day market, and also the value in enabling reusable lens wearers to stay in high oxygen transmissibility silicone hydrogel materials in the upgrade to 1 day lenses.   It was this promise that led CooperVision to invest heavily in our 1 day silicone hydrogel portfolio.   The clariti® 1 day family was the first, and still only, full family of SiHy 1 day lenses in the U.S. market.   CooperVision has since launched the MyDay® sphere and toric in the premium 1 day SiHy space.  

Figure 1.   Note:   Date shown is based on earliest commercial availability.

The no-compromise performance of the MyDay family of lenses came about by an investment in research and development, specifically in how to create a contact lens with an unmatched combination of material properties.  Since the launch of MyDay, premium 1 day SiHy lenses continue to proliferate in the market, however, clariti 1 day remains unique in being a low-cost SiHy 1 day, as well as, the only full family offering in SiHy 1 day.   CooperVision wanted all 1 day contact lens wearers to have the option of a highly breathable silicone hydrogel material, not just those that could afford a premium lens.   This was a challenge, though, as the greater complexity of silicone hydrogel materials and manufacturing processes (relative to hydrogel) have led to a higher cost to produce these lenses, and thus, a higher cost to the wearer.   In the creation of clariti 1 day, CooperVision was able to use innovative manufacturing processes and chemistry to create a high-performing lens at an affordable price point.   While the majority of ECPs surveyed globally said that they would fit all their wearers in 1 day SiHy if possible, nearly 95% of these ECPs cited cost as a key hindrance to fitting more 1 day SiHy lenses.  Clearly, creating more affordable SiHy 1 day lenses for wearers is a worthwhile goal.   We talked with Andy Broad, who led the clariti 1 day product development process to learn more about this effort to bring SiHy 1 day to all.

How long ago did your work with silicone hydrogel materials start?

Andy Broad:   I first started experimenting with silicone hydrogel materials in 1989.   The goal was to make material with high oxygen permeability like RGP lenses but to make them softer, like the hydrogel soft contact lenses that were popular in the market.  No commercial products came out of this experimentation but it provided me with a foundation in this type of chemistry which was on the cutting edge at the time.

Where did the journey with clariti® 1 day contact lenses begin?

AndyIn 2003, the commercial and technical team believed strongly that silicone hydrogel was the future and for Sauflon (now part of CooperVision) to remain competitive we also needed to have a silicone hydrogel soft lens.  This is when we started working toward this audacious goal.

What were some of the technical challenges that had to be overcome?

Andy:  Initially the team was pursuing a coated silicone hydrogel lens as these were the only type of commercial SiHy lenses at the time, but I had a belief from my prior early work on SiHy materials that it was possible to create an inherently wettable and compatible SiHy material without coatings so I was doing some “skunk work” on this as well.

What were some of the technical challenges in the product development?

Andy:  The coating route we pursued encountered technical feasibility issues, but equally there were compatibility and wettability issues with the alternate route trying to create a naturally wettable material.  

How were these challenges overcome?

Andy:   I had created some home-made software to better understand the interactions of the building blocks in the system and how the monomer formulation and curing process could be optimized to enhance wettability and compatibility.   Ultimately, utilizing this software led us to try some approaches we wouldn’t have thought possible otherwise and this turned out to be the correct path.

What else was key to the team’s success?

Andy:   At the time, Sauflon had a small R&D team, only 6 people, and with a limited budget.  However, the commercial and technical teams had a laser focus on the importance of creating a silicone hydrogel product to be successful in the market.   Being a small team, we also relied on strong collaborations with our clinical research partners, particularly the team at Eurolens with whom we had a close collaboration during the product development effort. 

What was the atmosphere like after the successful launch of clariti 1 day contact lenses?

AndyIt was a very exciting and dynamic time.   With the successful launch of clariti, the company was rapidly expanding, nearly doubling in staff and production capacity every two years.   We had started with what some might of thought as an impossible task and delivered a commercial product to market in a very short time with a very lean team.

Based on recent market data, it appears that CooperVision’s investment in silicone hydrogel 1-day materials was a wise one.  Daily contact lens fits have nearly doubled since 2013, and of this silicone hydrogel 1 days now represent 1/3 of total 1 day fits, up from only 20% of fits in 2014.   While the market for frequent replacement contact lenses is nearly flat in the U.S., silicone hydrogel 1 day lenses are growing at double digit rates.   The future looks bright for silicone hydrogel 1 day lenses and CooperVision is well-positioned to meet the needs of your wearers with a broad range of options in MyDay and clariti 1 day.  Our tremendous investment in silicone hydrogel materials has paid off as CooperVision is the now the leader in total silicone hydrogel 1 day fits and 1 out of every 2 new wearers fitted into a silicone hydrogel 1 day lens is wearing a clariti 1 day or MyDay contact lens.


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