Making a difference for dry eye patients
Sheema Mustahsin, country manager of Théa, on the company’s latest launches, an education-focus, and why dry eye deserves more attention
11 January 2023
What makes Théa’s products and services unique?Théa is an independent company that has been family-owned for five generations. The company has a focus on ophthalmology. Our core aim is to provide a quality offering to patients, and all of our products are clinically supported.
What is the latest product that Théa has released?
In 2022 we launched the Blepha EyeBag, which supports the first stage of the eye health regime – warmth – and provides relief for styes, chalazion,blepharitis, dry eye and meibomian gland dysfunction, and we launched the Zaspray dry eye spray.We are soon to be launching the new BlephaSteam which is a premium device for moist heat therapy for the management of MGD and associated diseases.
Are there any new products in development that readers should be aware of?
We have a really strong product pipeline – though we aren’t able to divulge what those are as yet, there will be lots of new launches next year. Théa has a sister company, Théa Open Innovation, which is a project to ensure that we have an innovative and strong product pipeline for the future.
How is Théa engaging in education around dry eye disease?
One of our pillars is education. We make sure we update our practitioners, and have tools to help them to educate the patient on what is best for their eyes. For example, we have training called the Eye Care Module, that our staff deliver to practitioners. This aims to help them support their patients and the public to understand the elements within their eyes, and advise them on the best routes moving forward.
We also provide a booklet for healthcare providers to help train them up, and The Théa Academy which is a dedicated section on our website featuring CPD-accredited courses for eye care professionals, as well as ongoing PR programmes, marketing activities and a lot of customer support.
“Théa was the first company to put preservatives into its drops. This was an innovation at the time because the formula would have had to be made up, used and then discarded. They saved sight through making preservative drops. But then Théa was also the pioneer of taking preservatives out of drops – developing a vial, the ABAK, that didn’t require preservatives and could guarantee the integrity of the drug.”
How are you seeing the issue of dry eye in the UK?
Dry eye is on the rise. We have an ageing population, but it is not just affecting the elderly. Dry eye is affecting young people as well. People who are gamers, for example, or working-age adults. I think we had an increase of dry eye during the pandemic as people were on their screens all the time.
There is also a secondary issue for older patients. The ageing population suffers more from eye conditions like cataracts, glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration, which all have a secondary outcome of dry eye due to the medications they are taking. Dry eye is a lot bigger than people think, and I anticipate that it is going to get worse.
Dry eye is a debilitating disease that affects quality of life and I don’t think it really gets the kudos that it deserves. It is often overlooked and minimalised, and people don’t realise that it really affects your daily life. I know, because I have a family member who has debilitating dry eye and I have seen what it does to a patient.
Because we have a range tailored to dry eye and various eye conditions, it really makes a difference. For dry eye, you can clean with Blephaclean, then use the Blepha EyeBag that provides relief for dry eye and blepharitis patients, and Théa’s drops as well. We have a complete range to help those conditions and I’ve seen first-hand how it can make a difference to a patient’s quality of life.
Why do you think dry eye doesn’t always get the recognition that it could?
I think it doesn’t get the recognition because it is so prevalent. Also, while in conditions like glaucoma, for example, the end result is blindness, dry eye doesn’t necessarily have that morbidity to it. But what people don’t realise is that life becomes difficult when you are trying to live with dry eye.
It is called ‘dry eye’ but actually, it is an ocular surface condition. People minimise it as ‘it’s only dry eye,’ but it’s not. It affects your tear film and ocular surface – it is much more than dry eye. Perhaps if you don’t suffer from it, or don’t know patients who have suffered from it, you tend to minimise it.
What are the company’s main ambitions for the next 12 months?
In the next year we want to continue to be patient-focused and to increase awareness of dry eye and other eye-related conditions amongst patients. We want to continue to support our practitioners.
Could you tell us three interesting facts about Théa?
- Théa is a pioneer of preservative-free eye drops
- In 2022, Henri Chibret, founder of Laboratoires Théa, received the ‘Spirit of Helen Keller Award’ for contributions to ophthalmology research and the prevention of blindness around the world
- In 2012, the Théa Foundation was established to fight avoidable blindness and support the training of medical personnel in Africa.
What external factors is the company taking into account when planning for the future?
We are in a tough economic environment. We’ve had Brexit, and COVID-19, the cost of goods is going up, and inflation is affecting our patients. As a company, we have a responsibility towards our patients, ourselves and our staff.
I think it is important to educate the patient that buying cheaper is not necessarily cost-effective. The product that doesn’t work, or that is not used, is the most expensive product. The most cost-effective product is the one that works and that they use regularly – that is what they should be looking for.
Patients trust their optometrists to recommend something that is a quality product, has clinical evidence behind it, and that they know works. But sometimes, when a patient is self-selecting, they may not choose a product if they feel it is more expensive. What they don’t realise is that you might be getting more drops per bottle, for example, or that you might not need to use as much of the solution because it is effective.
You took on the country manager role in 2022. What are your focuses for the coming year?
I have been country manager at Théa since June and before that I was head of sales. Overall, I’ve been with Théa for 10 years. It is a wonderful company to work for and I’m truly passionate about our range.
My focus is on supporting health care providers to be able to provide education and knowledge to their patients. I think as we grow as a company, the key is to not forget our customers and patients, and to make sure we are still continuing to develop products that serve patient needs.
The world is moving towards more self-selection and digital, but we can’t forget that the professionals are the professionals. We support recommendation through the professional. We think that is what benefits the patient most, because it helps them to understand what their condition is, and gives them the confidence to use quality products. We have to support them to be able to facilitate the journey with the customer. A professional recommendation is what we really believe in.
What would you say is your key message to readers?
We are 100% dedicated to eye care. The world of optometry is changing, but we will change with it and support healthcare professionals.
Where it all began
Chibret was sent back to France for treatment and sought out Professors Galezowsky and De Wecker amongst Parisian ophthalmology clinics.
Sheema Mustahsin explained: “He said that, if his sight could be saved, he would dedicate his life to ophthalmology. That is what he did.”
In 1875, he returned to Auvergne in Cantal, France, where his family originated, and opened an ophthalmology consultancy.