Coloured Lens For Fashion & Fun! - NZ Optics, August 1989

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Pravin Patel from Igel International renewing an old friendship with Ian Handricks from Hirstlens.

NZ Optics
August 1989


Now. .Coloured Lens For Fashion & Fun!

A new contact lens that provides a natural looking colour change to the eye was launched at the NZCLS Conference in Rotorua last month.

Just launched at Optrafair in England two months ago, "Hi-CoIours" has been creating major interest in several countries with orders outstripping production. After two years of developmental work, Mr Pravin Patel believes his company have created a lens that will not only be worn by patients requiring sight correction but by people interested in the fun and fashion aspect of an eye colour change.

"I think that the overall contact lens wearing population is going to increase - the main reason being that the fun aspect of it is going to catch on. Also people wanting multiple pairs of contact lens is quite common ยท these days especially with the disposable income being far higher than it has ever been before. I have no doubts that the contact lens industry will benefit as well as contact lens practitioners by additional sales through the interest in tints," said Mr Patel, Managing Director of Igel International.

Mr Patel said that since getting into the contact lens market ten years ago, their objective was to design a lens that could change the colour of the eye.

"We know the contact lens market very well and one of our objectives has been to create a lens that would turn brown eyes blue. Our first attempts were in designing a process where we got a blocking or opaquing all over the lens but it made the eye look very unnatural. Our ultimate aim has been to create a lens with an iris print. We have now developed a technique so that we can vary the print which represents a realistic corneal pattern and create whatever print we want. This is the real benefit of our manufacturing process," he said.

The iris print is stamped on after the lens is manufactured and hydrated. Like the Wesley Jessen Durasoft lens and process, the Igel process has been patented. Mr Patel is very complimentary about the Durasoft lens which is in direct competition to "Hi CoIours".

"Wesley Jessen lenses are also a good product. They have had the benefit of being out in the market for a year. They sold $US90 million lenses in the first year. The tinted contact lens market has been considerably enhanced by Wesley Jessen," he said.

Like most soft contact lenses, Mr Patel said that "Hi Co|ours" and "Hi Tints" have a life of 12-18 months but that some cleansing regimes can destroy the iris print on the lens.

"As far as all tinted contact lens are concerned, fading is experienced and will be accelerated by the use of hydrogen peroxide sterilising systems or the chlorine based systems such as the soft tab system.

"One of the greatest advantages with the Igel Hi Colours is that the material used is 67% Igel and therefore the lens is boilable.

This material has a high tensile strength - almost 40 per cent greater than Hema. But one must avoid using high oxidising regimes. Over a period of time, you will find that with Igel lenses, the colour will be retained. If the opaquing does fade, we can re-tint it and recreate the pattern.

"I feel that this product will be used as a second or third pair of lenses, and only being used occasionally, they will certainly last longer. It is absolutely necessary that practitioners take care in instructing the patient on how to look after their lenses properly as this will assist them in getting a far greater value for money because the lenses will last a lot longer," he said.

Corneal Lens Corporation, who are the exclusive distributors for "Hi Colours" in New Zealand, have been doing business with Igel for the past ten years. Up until now, they have mainly been purchasing blanks from them.

"We feel that this lens has great potential. Due to demand, we have decided to sell fitting sets of 5 lenses - one of each colour. The lenses will wholesale for $80 each which we feel is an excellent price," said Mr Stephen Curtis.

The colours - Aquamarine, Velvet Brown, Jade, Pacific Blue and Amethyst are available in all parameters and can be applied to Igel CD, Igel 67 Prima, Igel 77 and Igel’s prosthetic soft lenses.

One of the partners in Igel International is Mr Nick da Costa, one of the leading polymer scientists in the world as far as contact lens materials are concerned.

"Nick originally worked on the soft contact lens material when it first came out of Czechoslovakia. He was the developer of the hydron material as it is known today and we went into partnership ten years ago to manufacture contact lens material," said Mr Patel.

From small beginnings ten years ago, Igel is now the fourth largest soft contact lens laboratory in the U.K. with a ten per cent market share and exports to sixty different countries around the world.

"We have been exporting materials ever since we started in business. The home market of the U.K. is our biggest market and we are now the fourth largest soft contact lens laboratory in the U.K. in both terms of size and market share. Market leader is Allergan Hydron, followed by Pilkington, Bausch & Lomb and then Igel.

Igel International, which is based in Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire, is a private company with 3 partners and employs 100 staff. They manufacture nearly 2.5 million buttons a year as well as 30,000 soft contact lenses per month for stock requirements.

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