The World's First Tools for Inserting and Removing Soft Contact Lenses
Meditrek Inc. manufactures and markets "meruru," a set of tools for inserting and removing soft contact lenses, which it spent three years developing. The first products of their type, these tools are garnering much attention from the mass media, and are rapidly becoming available in contact lens shops, drug stores, and general retailers around the country. We spoke with Toshihiko Saito, Meditrek Vice President, at their company offices located near the Bashamichi Station on the Minatomirai train line. (Interview: February 14, 2014)
-Tell us what Meditrek does.
Meditrek is a company that was founded on August 8, 2012, for the sole purpose of manufacturing and marketing the "meruru" tools for inserting and removing soft contact lenses. The company has only been operating for a year and a half, but we spent three years before that prototyping and testing the "meruru" tools. They have been introduced in the mass media as "the world’s first tools for inserting and re- moving soft contact lenses," and have been featured on TV Tokyo's World Business Satellite "Trend Tamago," and in the Nikkei Newspaper. The tools are rolling out in domestic ophthalmologists' offices, contact lens stores, drug stores, and general retail stores.
-Tell us about "meruru."
This is a revolutionary new product that allows insertion and removal of soft contact lenses without using fingers. The set of tools is comprised of a pair of polycarbonate forceps with silicone tips, and a silicone stick. We developed them with the concept of "simple insertion and removal," and achieved the three goals of simplicity, safety, and sanitary. There has never been a product quite like this; it's the first set of tools in the world to provide both insertion and removal, and we've obtained both patents and design trademarks. Manufacturing is handled by a Japanese partner.
-How do you use the tools?
First, you affix the contact lens to the back of the spoon end of the stick. If you just turn the lens around halfway in the lens case, it easily sticks to the cup due to the surface tension of the contact lens solution. Next, you transfer the contact lens to the cup part on the back end of the for ceps. Open your eye with your other hand, and insert the lens. To remove the contact lens, grasp the lens with the silicon tips of the forceps, and slowly remove the lens. After using the tools, rinse them in running water and let them air dry in a cool place. Our test data shows zero bacteria growth with just rinsing; simple, safe, and sanitary.
-What prompted the development?
Opthomalogists have patients practice inserting and removing contact lenses using their fingers, and everyone thinks of that as normal. However, finger use can result in injury to the eye from fingernails, or lead to eye diseases like conjunctivitis. We know from experiments that some dirt remains even when hands are washed with soap. And then some people just can't get used to inserting the lenses, and give up on using contacts altogether. These issues caused us to wonder if there wasn't a way to insert and remove contacts without using fingers. Also, when we heard about the conditions after the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami, we thought it would be helpful if there were a way to insert and remove contacts under conditions where people can't wash their hands. That was another impetus.
-What gave you difficulty?
There were a lot of problems with removing contact lenses; at first we just prototyped a removal tool. Then there were issues with difference of 0.5 mm in the forceps tips, ease of insertion, ease of storing the tools, and a lot of details like that we worried about, so it took us three years overall. Then to sell the tools, we wanted to do it as a manufacturer, not just personally, so we formed the company. At first we couldn't get any attention for our product, but finally in November 2013 we began to be recognized.
We started selling in Tokyu Hands, and then we began getting inquiries from contact lens shops, opthamalogists, cosplay shops, and finally from nationwide drug store chains.
-What sort of people are your end users?
Recently colored contacts are popular, particularly among young women; we'd really like such women with long, manicured fingernails to use our tools. In general retails stores "meruru" is located by the colored contacts. It's also the perfect product for those who have a hard time putting in contacts, those who have had eye troubles, and those who have given up on contacts. There are a lot of good user reviews on the Rakuten Internet sales area; the tools seem to be very favorably received. We're also proud that we've had very few complaints from our clients.
-Finally, give us your views on expanding overseas.
We're currently pursuing the possibility of expanding into South Korea through a trading company. South Korea is where a lot of colored contacts are made, after all. Looking around the world, the biggest market for contacts is the United States. We're looking to enter the U.S. market in the future, but we still need to decide whether to work with a trading company, or to partner with a contact lens maker. And to do this, we first want to solidify our position in the domestic market. We will gather data and increase our domestic market share, and improve the product to make it even easier to use. We'd love to become a staple product in Japanese drug stores, so that foreign countries think of us as "that product that's sold in Japan." "meruru" is indispensible for inserting and removing soft contact lenses. Simple, safe, and sanitary, and can be used anywhere in the world!