Allergan launches new lens solution

Allergan has launched a competitive challenge to Bausch & Lomb Canada in the multi-purpose category for soft contact lens solution.For the last six years, Bausch & Lomb of Richmond Hill, Ont. has been the sole maker of a contact lens solution...

Allergan has launched a competitive challenge to Bausch & Lomb Canada in the multi-purpose category for soft contact lens solution.

For the last six years, Bausch & Lomb of Richmond Hill, Ont. has been the sole maker of a contact lens solution that combines the properties of a cleaner, disinfectant and rinse.

But last month, after several years of product research and development by its u.s.-based parent company, Allergan Canada began shipping its new Complete solution to drugstores across the country.

Complete claims not only to clean, rinse and disinfect, but also to lubricate.

Bausch & Lomb established the multi-purpose category in 1987 with the launch of Sensitive Eyes Soaking Solution, which was renamed Sensitive Eyes Multipurpose Solution in 1990 to better convey the fact that it is more than a soaking solution.

While Sensitive Eyes has developed a loyal following among users, Allergan believes there is a large, untapped potential for a brand that combines all the solutions needed for contact lens care in a single product.

Rob Seguin, group leader, optical with Allergan, says Complete is the first disinfectant solution to take the convenience positioning as far as it will go.

Seguin says Complete is bound to prove a threat to rival solution manufacturers, noting ‘it has a unique positioning that will be difficult to duplicate.’

‘You have to know that we are going to shake the business up,’ he says.

But Mary Dorton, professional services manager with Bausch & Lomb, is not impressed with Allergan’s claims of uniqueness.

Dorton, who dismisses Complete as a me-too product, says Sensitive Eyes also has lubricating properties, but Bausch & Lomb simply did not believe it was necessary to make the claim.

‘It is not appropriate to use as a lubricant, since it comes in such a large container [240 millilitres,] she says.

Know what’s in it

Besides, adds Dorton, contact lens solutions are primarily ‘practitioner-recommended and practitioners know what is in the bottle.’

For his part, Seguin argues that if Sensitive Eyes meets Canadian medical standards as a lubricant, then Bausch & Lomb is free to register the claim with Health & Welfare.

But until they do, says Sequin, Complete is the ‘only solution on the market that can officially claim to be a true all-in-one solution.’

Allergan’s ad agency on Complete, which represents the largest product launch in the company’s history, is The Gibson Group of Richmond Hill, Ont.

Gibson Group won the account in an agency review held earlier this year.

Other agencies involved in the pitch were Saatchi & Saatchi and Remtulla + Associates, both of Toronto, and Hammond Menear Haynes, of Montreal.

Allergan’s marketing strategy for the brand will be directed primarily at the country’s 5,000-odd opthalmologists, optometrists and opticians.

During May and June, the company took out teaser ads in Canada’s four main professional eye-care journals: The Canadian Journal of Optometry and its French-language equivalent, L’Optimetriste, Optical Prism and Ophthalmic Practice.

This month and next, it is running an eight-page advertising insert in the same publications.

The insert provides detailed product specifications and information on a program Allergan had developed whereby practitioners can buy solution and resell it to users as part of a complete contact-care package.

Packaging

Allergan is also hoping to gain awareness within the industry based on its eye-grabbing packaging, which is deep blue in color and features a large hand-drawn eye in bright yellow.

Sequin notes that on the store shelf the package stands out in sharp relief from competing solutions, so consumers are noticing it and later asking their practitioner about it.

The package was designed by a California firm, Bright & Associates.

‘Usually people don’t pay much attention to solutions,’ Seguin says. ‘They just use what their practitioner tells them to use.’

About 10% of Canadians wear contact lens.

During the year ending March 31, nearly $41 million was spent in drugstores on soft contact lens solutions.

The bulk of the sales are in hydrogen peroxide solutions, although that market is in decline, giving way to the more convenient disinfectant solutions.

Seguin notes that for the last few years, the contact lens market has been moving to frequent replacement lens because they are more convenient, so it is only natural for the solution market to also shift in the direction of greater convenience.