Euromcontact, the European association that groups major manufacturers of contact lenses and related products, has found that the total value of contact lens market in Europe, the Middle East and Africa rose by 7.7 percent last year to €1.182 billion. Among the 21 markets studied, only South Africa showed a decline, down by 13.5 percent. The increases were largest in the United Arab Emirates, which grew by 43.3 percent, and in Russia, up by 31.7 percent. France reported the lowest increase at 3.8 percent.

Only daily disposable (DD), weekly/bi-weekly and monthly (WBM), and conventional (CS) lenses were considered in the survey. They held, respectively, 40.2 percent, 54.9 percent and 2.7 percent of the market in the 21 countries studied.

Once again, the data show that the Nordic region has the highest penetration rate, up by 2.9 percent over 2007 to 8.9 percent. Russia had the lowest penetration rate at 0.65 percent, though that had risen by 35.6 percent from the previous year. Russia's figure doesn't include daily disposables, for which statistics are not available.

Along with South Africa, Italy had a drop in total numbers of wearers, down by 0.04 percent, as did Hungary, with a 0.26 percent drop. The Netherlands grew by 3.4 percent to 7.01 percent, but lost its No. 2 slot to the U.K. and Ireland (which for this report's purposes is one region), which grew by 5.1 percent to 7.17 percent. Swiss wearers increased by 10.4 percent to hit a 6.95 percent penetration rate.

Silicone hydrogels have been a driving force behind growth in the WBM segment, and in the relatively virgin Russian market they made up almost 75 percent of the total turnover last year. They represented more than 60 percent of the total in the Nordic region, the U.K. and Ireland, Switzerland and Austria. Silicone hydrogels are doing well in Germany as well, where they made up 51.3 percent of the total WBM purchases, up from 40.4 percent in the previous year.

The report notes that it only covers soft contact lenses, and that some local suppliers, mainly of gas-permeable and traditional soft lenses, may not be included, even if they have significant market shares. The report gives as examples Germany, Switzerland, and the U.K. and Ireland. It points out that the wearer base it describes might be different from the actual total wearer base, especially in countries with a high usage of gas-permeable lenses, such as Germany and the Netherlands.

In the segment of lens care products, which includes soaking and rinsing solutions, cleaners and other such products, the total market in the 21 countries assessed grew by 2.5 percent to €252.6 million. Multi-purpose solutions rose by 5.6 percent in value, while hydrogen peroxide solutions fell by 8.4 percent. These two categories made up 75.2 percent of the lens-care segment last year. The multi-purpose category was 3.22 times the hydrogen peroxide group, up from a ratio of 2.81 in 2007.

Austria had the highest value of lens care sales per wearer, while the lowest was in the U.K. and Ireland, though the author noted that a major supplier of lens care products in the U.K. and Ireland, Sauflon, was not included in the findings.

Overall, the report found that the largest soft lens wearer base is in the Nordic region, as noted above, and the lowest among the 11 reported countries was Germany, at 2.86 percent of adults. Daily disposables are especially common in the Nordic countries, the U.K. and Ireland, and Switzerland.

The companies reporting results to Euromcontact were AMO, Alcon, Avizor, Bausch & Lomb, CIBA Vision, Cooper Vision, Johnson & Johnson Vision Care and Menicon Europe. Euromcontact took into consideration a wearer base of 15- to 64-year-olds.