May 19, 2006
CDC report supports Bausch & Lomb recall
By Bill Berkrot
NEW YORK (Reuters) - The U.S. Centers for Disease Control
and Prevention issued a report on Friday that backed Bausch &
Lomb Inc.'s decision to recall its ReNu with MoistureLoc
contact lens solution, which has been linked to cases of a
serious eye infection.
But the CDC analysis of reported cases of Fusarium
keratitis -- a fungal infection that can lead to blindness --
gave Bausch & Lomb's battered stock a lift as it found no
statistically significant link to reported cases of the
infection involving other contact lens solutions.
"The analysis does not indicate that these products are
associated with significantly increased risk for disease," the
Bausch & Lomb, whose shares rose more than 3 percent, said
the CDC report should restore confidence in its other lens care
products, which had been under increasing scrutiny since the
outbreak of Fusarium keratitis cases surfaced, with many
optometrists advising patients to avoid all Bausch lens
"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.
Piper Jaffray analyst Steven Hamill said investors appeared
to be encouraged by the CDC's conclusions.
"It kind of takes away the last question mark on where the
government is going to stand on this issue," Hamill said.
Bausch & Lomb shares rose nearly 4.5 percent on Friday
before paring their gains to close up $1.75, or 3.6 percent, at
$50.05 on the New York Stock Exchange.
It shares hit a 52-week low on May 4 of $41.04, as more
cases of infection emerged. In mid-March the shares were
trading for about $67.
The majority of confirmed cases of the rare infection in
contact lens users have been linked to ReNu with MoistureLoc.
Of 130 patients with confirmed cases in the United States,
the CDC said 118 were able to identify which contact lens
solution they had used over the previous month, and 64 percent
of them reported using only MoistureLoc.
"Contact lens wearers should immediately discontinue use of
this solution and consult an eye-care professional regarding
use of an appropriate alternative product for cleaning or
disinfecting lenses," the CDC report said.
Earlier this week, Bausch announced a complete recall of
ReNu with MoistureLoc. The company had pulled the product in
the United States last month and from parts of Asia earlier
this year after it was linked to 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 rather than
contamination of the product.