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B&L urges removal of suspect solution

Apr 14, 2006 |

Bausch & Lomb Inc. has asked all U.S. retailers to remove ReNu with MoistureLoc contact lens solution from their shelves.

"We find ourselves in a position where the safety of one of our products is in question," Chief Executive Ronald Zarrella wrote in a letter to consumers.

In the letter, which will appear today and Sunday in newspapers across the country, Zarrella said testing by the company and the Food and Drug Administration has so far not found a definitive link between the solution and reported case of a rare but threatening eye infection.

But he added, "Bausch & Lomb's first priority is the health and safety of consumers. If there is a problem with our product, we'll find it and we'll fix it. If there's not, when we come back, you'll be able to know with absolute certainty that we've taken every possible step to ensure your safety."

The company is recommending that consumers switch to another contact lens solution until an investigation into 109 U.S. cases of Fusarium keratitis is complete.

B&L said in a statement that it would offer product refunds.

The company had suspended U.S. sales of ReNu with MoistureLoc earlier this week because a disproportionately large number of the eye infections studied by public health authorities involved contact lens wearers who used a B&L lens cleaner made in the company's Greenville, S.C., plant.

B&L stock has fallen about 20 percent since Monday, but it rose slightly Thursday, finishing at $46.17, up 56 cents. But other ripple effects are now being felt.

Though no safety issues have arisen in Europe, two retail chains in Scandinavia, where B&L continues to ship ReNu with MoistureLoc, advised customers to change to a different brand until U.S. authorities have pinpointed the cause of the infections in the United States.

The chains were Synsam, which operates about 300 stores in Sweden, Finland and Norway, and Specsavers Blic Optik, which has about 40 stores in Sweden.

"Until this has been investigated in the U.S.A., the suspicion still remains," said Synsam's chief executive, Gunnar Harbom. "And for us, the suspicion is enough."

Several national retail chains, including Kmart, Sears, Walgreens, CVS, Rite Aid and Wal-Mart, had already pulled the product.

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