May 19, 2006

Bausch & Lomb says CDC report supports its recall

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A report by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control backed the decision by Bausch & Lomb Inc. to recall its ReNu with MoistureLoc contact lens solution, which has been linked to dozens of cases of a serious eye infection, the company said on Friday.

The company said the report should restore confidence in its other lens care products, which had been under increasing scrutiny since the outbreak of cases of Fusarium keratitis, a fungal infection that can lead to blindness.

"The CDC's conclusion that the MoistureLoc formulation was the only product with a statistically significant association with reports of Fusarium keratitis in the cases they have evaluated should put to rest any further speculation that other products may also be implicated," Bausch & Lomb Chief Executive Ronald Zarrella said in a statement.

Whether such speculation is put to rest remains to be seen, as the cause of the infection has yet to be found and there have been Fusarium cases reported in users of another Bausch product, as well as a few cases associated with products made by other lens care companies.

Earlier this week, Bausch announced a complete recall of its ReNu with MoistureLoc. The company had pulled the product in the United States last month and parts of Asia earlier this year after it was linked to a rash of the fungal infections.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has said the Fusarium outbreak appears to be related to the design and use of Bausch's ReNu with MoistureLoc formula after ruling out a contamination problem at one of the company's plants.

The company recommended that former MoistureLoc users switch to ReNu MultiPlus or ReNu Multi-Purpose, which have different formulas from that of MoistureLoc.

Bausch & Lomb shares, which have sold off sharply since the Fusarium problem cropped up in March, were up $1.85, or 3.8 percent, to $50.15 on the New York Stock Exchange. In mid-March the shares were trading for about $67.