Designed to manage Stress Urinary Incontinence (SUI), these supports do not absorb leaks, they help prevent them. According to the Kimberly-Clark website, the first step to using the product is using a Sizing Kit, which will help gauge the most comfortable and effective internal fit. Each of these kits include six bladder supports as well as a $4 coupon toward the purchase of a 10-count Impress package.
According to Tom Wilson of the CareGiver Partnership, an online clearinghouse of adult incontinence items, pessaries have been used as an incontinence aid for sometime but until now could be used only when fitted by a healthcare provider. This is because earlier generations of the product were rigid and had fixed dimensions, unlike the silicone-based Impressa, and had to be continuously hand washed and reinserted.
Wilson adds that Impressa, if it reaches full market distribution, could change the nature of the light incontinence market, particularly stress incontinence—which is the largest and growing segment of the category and is currently valued at about $500 million in the U.S. alone.
So far, the product seems to be a win with customers. According to an FDA-approved study, 94% of women wearing Poise Impressa with severe SUI reported a 70% leak reduction after a full week of use, the period it takes for full effectiveness to be demonstrated. When asked about coughing, laughing, sneezing, jumping, lifting, walking, running or going to the gym, 50-90% of women expressed a lack of confidence they could stay dry during these activities prior to the study. By the end of the study this dropped to about 10%. In other words, about 90% of women were confident they would stay dry. Of the women polled, 92% of women said their quality of life had significantly improved - physically, the ability to travel, to socialize and emotionally.
Currently, Poise has about a 65% share of this market, but K-C’s dominance in adult incontince is being challenged. The company’s rival in many absorbent categories, Procter & Gamble, returned to the market with the launch of Always Discreet earlier this year after a 15 year hiatus.
However, a product like Impressa has the ability to change consumer habits, according to experts. The product takes about 5-7 days to become fully effective but once the product works it will give women the ability to stay active and physical without worrying about leaking.
As K-C dips its toes in this new category, the industry is waiting to see what the response will be from its competitors, namely P&G. In 2011, P&G published a study of a new pessary design from an Israeli startup named Contipi, and agreed to acquire the company the prior year. The offer was eventually rescinded but P&G is reportedly assisting in pilot distribution of the product, which received OTC regulatory approval in August 2013, in several countries.
Another company working in this area is Solace Therapeutics, which offers a novel, non-surgical treatment alternative for stress urinary incontinence. The product, which is intended to remain in the bladder for up to one year, behaves like a cushion in the bladder during moments of increased abdominal pressure by absorbing sudden pressure changes. Solace has been enrolling patients in clinical treatments since August.