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The Only Difference Is When You Throw Them Away

It's the tail end of the soft contact lens manufacturing line at Bausch & Lomb's Rochester (N.Y.) factory. A white-clad worker carefully inserts each tiny lens into a plastic blister pack filled with saline solution. Then, some lenses are sealed with a blue film and loaded into boxes marked SeeQuence 2. Another set gets covered with purple film and is stuffed into boxes marked Medalist. Soon, patients around the U.S. will be paying $7 to $9 per pair for the SeeQuence contacts and $15 to $25 for a pair of Medalists.

What's the difference? None. Zilch. Zero. The two products contain precisely the same lens. Yet eye doctors tell patients to throw away SeeQuence lenses after a week or two, while Medalist wearers use their lenses for up to three months. It's a vivid illustration of the contact-lens industry's little-known secret: Most manufacturers market several brand names with widely varying prices, but there's often little or no technical variation.