You know the old saying if it’s too good to be true then it probably is? The same might be said about Hubble contact lenses. Forbes Magazine recently ran a feature on the founders of Hubble contact lenses and their goal of disrupting the contact lens industry. According to the founders, contacts are “expensive because they can be. People are willing to pay hundreds of dollars. They don’t realize they have choices.”
Is this really true?
There are daily lenses available at various price points. Truth is, the economic laws of supply and demand apply in the contact lens industry as well. As the population’s demand for daily wear contact lenses has increased, new and more brands of daily lenses have been developed, and prices have decreased. In fact, some dailies are now less expensive than monthly lenses. The average reputable daily lens cost can range from $40-$90 a box.
So what makes contact lens pricing vary?
1 - Quality of Materials – The difference in the cost of a box of single use contact lenses is most dependent on the materials involved in production. I typically explain this to my patients as three categories: low, middle, and high. The cheapest lenses are in the lowest category. I rarely prescribe these due to lack of breathability and dryness. A majority of patients will need at least a “mid range” quality lens, and many likely need a lens in the “higher” category of contact lenses in order to wear their lenses all day without experiencing symptoms of dryness or discomfort.
Silicone hydrogel lenses like Acuvue Oasys 1 Day and Dailies Total One are premium quality contact lenses. These lenses are superior in both the amount of oxygen they allow to your eyes, and long-lasting moisture they provide throughout a day’s wear. The prices on these quality lenses are a reflection of the premium nature of the lens.
So what material are Hubble contact lenses made out of? Hubble contact lenses are made of methafilicon A. Several older monthly contacts were made out of methafilicon A including Frequency 55 and Vertex lenses. Both of these lenses have since been discontinued. Most importantly, Contact Lens Spectrum lists the dk of methafilicon A as 18. DK is a measurement of the oxygen permeability of contact lenses. The significance of a low dk means that much less oxygen is getting to the cornea than with other commonly prescribed daily wear contact lenses. As we know, the dk of a contact lens is extremely important when prescribing a lens to patients in order to mitigate risk of corneal neovascularization, corneal ulcers, corneal edema, and other contact lens related complications.
2 - Research and Development – Like any product, no matter the industry, a significant hidden aspect of cost is research and development. Whether contact lenses, lenses for our glasses or our iPhones, we pay for product evolution. When you are using an old contact lens material like Hubble contact lenses do, there is not an associated R&D cost. They are using someone else’s used goods. In the US, we are driven by technology and innovation. We run out to buy the latest and newest. We fork over our money to have the newest device and gizmo. Contact lenses are no different.
In order for us to be able to wear more comfortable lenses each year, we must be willing to invest in the technology. We need lenses that we are able to wear after 10-12 hours of digital device use without drying out. We must have lenses that are more resistant to corneal infections or inflammation. It’s imperative that companies continue to design lenses that provide us with superior vision and unparalleled optics.
Could research and development efforts lead to contacts to enhance the vision of patients with macular degeneration or deliver medications for those with glaucoma? Could R&D lead to improved materials to reduce halo effect and make us more comfortable with night-time driving? Are contact lenses that protect us from the effects of blue light from digital devices in our future?
3 - Low Cost? – Hubble’s biggest driving force has been their price. They offer the subscriber 30 pairs of lenses for $30 dollars, which brings the cost to $1.00 per day or $0.50 cents per lens. Is this really a bargain? When you look at lenses of equal quality, you will see that it is not. It’s a low price for an older material lens, and similar in price (or more expensive) than older lenses listed below. They also include a $3.00 shipping charge per order.
Focus Dailies (dk =26) ; Our price: $60.00/90 lenses ($0.66 cents per lens) 1-Day Acuvue dk =21; Our price $72.00/90 lenses (.80 cents per lens) Not included in this pricing are applicable manufacturer’s rebates, free shipping to your home on annual supply orders and our own “5% off an annual supply” discount which apply to all contact lens orders placed through our office.
Do our doctors prescribe Hubble contact lenses for their patients, friends or family? No. The technology in contact lenses today is far superior than the days of methafilicon A. Hubble is doing contact lens wearers a disservice by offering them old materials in contact lenses for a perceived lower price.
The reality is, you can obtain lenses of superior quality and proven track record of safety and success for comparable costs. In a world driven by innovation and technology, our eyes deserve better.