JJVC discontinues UPP, looks to support contact lens advocacy

April 13, 2016

Johnson & Johnson Vision Care (JJVC) has discontinued its unilateral pricing policy (UPP) in an effort to focus the company’s resources on strengthening the doctor-patient relationship and advocating against contact lens deregulation. In UPP’s place, JJVC will be launching a new patient rewards program. This change is effective April 13, 2016.

Johnson & Johnson Vision Care (JJVC) has discontinued its unilateral pricing policy (UPP) in an effort to focus the company’s resources on strengthening the doctor-patient relationship and advocating against contact lens deregulation. In UPP’s place, JJVC will be launching a new patient rewards program. This change is effective April 13, 2016.    

Other manufacturers participating in UPP include Alcon, Bausch + Lomb, and CooperVision. JJVC launched UPP in July 2014.   

JJVC senior-level management spoke exclusively with Optometry Times about the company’s decision.

Related: UPP: A good decision for our patients

Says Millicent L. Knight, OD, FAARM, vice president, professional affairs, North America: “If we are spending all of our time and resources-not just our financial resources but our manpower, our influence to advocate for UPP- then we’re not keeping our eye on the ball and the bigger picture, which is making sure the contact lens industry stays regulated in a safe and effective way. That I think is the most important thing for doctors.”

Optometry Times Chief Optometric Editor Ernie Bowling, OD, MS, FAAO, FNAP, says he is very disappointed with JJVC’s decision to discontinue UPP.

“This is a blow to the private practice optometrist,” he says. “UPP was exactly what we needed to level the playing field with big-box retailers. JJVC was a leader in UPP. Independent doctors can only hope that other contact lens manufacturers don’t follow suit.”

Steve Pullen, OD, in Jacksonville, FL, says the big picture is what’s important.

“My first reaction, I was a little disappointed when I heard the news because UPP has been a wonderful thing,” he says. “But it sounds like JJVC has to pick their battles. As effective UPP has been, we are facing some daunting legislative issues. This is a bigger fight, and that’s where we need to focus our energies. Am I thrilled with it? No. I think the bigger picture softens the blow a little bit.”

Dr. Pullen, who is a member of JJVC’s president’s advisory board, thinks most of his optometric colleagues will have a similar kneejerk reaction.

“If you stop to think about it, our profession is legislated, and it can just as easily be taken away with a few bills. If people look to see where JJVC has taken the fight to big companies, they’re in the states where problems have taken place. JJVC is stepping up to the plate to fight. They were at the Senate hearings in person. Other manufacturers had a letter or statement. That does speak volumes as to where their core values are. They’re trying to uphold patient-doctor relationships, and I don’t think other companies are doing that.”

Next: Legislation in the mix

 

Legislation in the mix

Optometrists around the country have been facing legislation introduced to extend contact lens expiration dates. Weeks ago, Arizona HB 5253 was defeated in Arizona. Earlier this week, Louisiana Sen. Bill Cassidy introduced the Contact Lens Consumer Health Protection Act in an attempt to tighten contact lens prescription verification. And more bills will likely be introduced in the future.

Related: AOA fights back against 1-800 CONTACTS-backed state legislation

JJVC considered UPP as one tool in its pricing strategy, which aimed to help patients better afford contact lenses. Dr. Knight says the company is evolving its strategy now so JJVC has more support to protect the doctor-patient relationship.

“Does UPP really matter if doctors can’t dispense products from their offices if the contact lens industry is deregulated and probably 20 to 30 percent of doctors’ income immediate disappears overnight?” she says. “We have to go for what is most important, which is keeping contact lenses regulated so that it’s a safe experience for patients.”

Dr. Bowling questions why JJVC could not continue UPP while also supporting the profession’s legislative battles.

“Why can’t they do both?” he says.

“It’s really about getting out of this state-by-state debate,” says Peter Menziuso, president of JJVC North America. “With the way that UPP has been opposed, we want to step away from that and move into what’s more important.”

Related: What’s new in optometry law

Next: Retailers to help grow category

 

Retailers to help grow category

In addition to evolving its pricing strategy, JJVC would like to bring new contact lens wearers into the category.

“As you know, consumers are the ones who make the decision to enter the category,” says Ashley McEvoy, global chairperson of vision care and diabetes at Johnson & Johnson. “We’ve been quiet over the past couple of years. We really view this as our job for the health of the category to make some investments into educating consumers to go after doctors. And that’s going to take energy and focus from us.

Part of that strategy is working with retail partners to drive category growth through new programs.

Menziuso says that JJVC will be working with its retail partners to move more patients to contact lens wear and build their businesses as well.

“We need to be where our patients are,” he says. “Our product needs to be accessible and affordable.”

Next: New patient program

 

New patient program

JJVC is replacing UPP with a new patient program that the company claims will improve contact lens affordability for patients and patient retention.

JJVC’s program will allow patients to activate a rebate for contact lenses via device such as a smartphone or tablet. Also, the patient has the option to opt in for electronic reminders about ocular health visits or contact lens purchase.

The new rebate is offered at three, six, and 12 months of purchase instead of the traditional six and 12 months, says Menziuso. Plus, activating the reward will take the patient six to 10 minutes and limit office staff involvement in processing the rebate. The benefit should be received in about two weeks.

Menziuso says that patient retention can be improved with opt-in reminders to counsel patients to return to the office for care or purchase more contact lenses when the cycle time nears. Both reminders send the patient back to the initial provider by including that doctor’s name and phone number.

Menziuso says that the program goes beyond a traditional rebate program, hence the term “rewards program.”

“A rebate is just a monetary benefit in the moment that you make the redemption,” he says. We’re calling this a rewards program because of everything that’s accompanying it, the surrounding sound support.”

Dr. Knight explained the benefits of UPP and discussed the challenges of rebates when she testified in front of the Senate in July 2014. She says that the new rewards program is escalated UPP.

“This new program is made out of the same spirit in which UPP was developed,” she says. “It’s to ensure the best experience for patients: affordability, accessibility, to make sure the patient is compliant with the prescription as it is written. It will provide the same opportunity and maybe without some of the challenges that we’ve received with UPP.”

Opponents of UPP include 1-800 CONTACTS and Costco, which filed suit against JJVC in 2015.

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