March 31, 2006

Bausch & Lomb Responds to Infection in Lens Wearers

LOS ANGELES -- Bausch & Lomb Inc. said on Friday it is working with health authorities around the world to determine the cause of an increase in a rare fungus infection among contact lens wearers that first surfaced in parts of Asia.

The company, which makes both contact lenses and lens solution, said it believes that the cause of the Fusarium keratitis infections is not related to any specific contact lens or lens-care product.

Authorities in Singapore linked a number of cases of the infection to use of Bausch & Lomb ReNu contact lens solution, but the authorities are not saying it was the cause, a company spokeswoman said.

Hong Kong also asked Bausch & Lomb to pull ReNu from shelves, but testing has not shown a problem, the spokeswoman said.

Bausch & Lomb said extensive tests of the products have yielded no evidence to suggest that they in any way caused or contributed to the infections.

The company said the situation is expected to reduce its first-quarter vision care revenues in the Asia region by as much as $10 million versus internal expectations.

Hong Kong and Singapore are relatively small markets, but the publicity associated with the unusual incidence has spread beyond their borders, Bausch & Lomb said.

That has depressed sales in other areas, particularly China, which is being impacted despite the fact that there have been no reports of Fusarium infections among contact lens wearers there.

Bausch & Lomb said it is working with investigations into the infections by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and health ministries in Singapore, Hong Kong, and Malaysia, as well as eye institutes at the University of Miami and Johns Hopkins University.

The company urged contact lens wearers to follow good hygiene and proper lens care practices to prevent infection.