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CDC confirms additional eye infections

High percentage Bausch & Lomb users infected

May 9, 2006 | www.cbsmarketwatch.com

The Centers for Disease Control said Tuesday it has confirmed additional U.S. cases of a rare eye infection called fusarium keratitis, with an unusually high percentage of the cases being reported by users of Bausch & Lomb contact lens solution products.

The agency said in a statement that as of May 9, it had confirmed 106 cases of the infection, which can lead to blindness if not properly treated.

Of 98 confirmed cases for which the CDC said it has "complete data," 66% said they used Bausch & Lomb's ReNu with MoistureLoc contact lens solution, while another 21% said they used a ReNu MultiPlus solution.

About 7% of the cases used products made by Alcon Inc. or Advanced Medical Optics Inc. Another 5% didn't use any contact lens solutions.

"At this point, it is too early in the investigation to say whether a particular product or solution may be responsible for the outbreak," the CDC said in its statement. However, it added that during the course of its investigation, "the proportion of patients who reported using Bausch & Lomb's ReNu with MoistureLoc has remained relatively consistent, at around 50% to 60% of confirmed cases."

The agency said that recent publicity may have also contributed to the rise of reported cases, as the infection is not one that is normally required to be reported by health professionals.

Disease outbreaks and increased media coverage often raise awareness about particular infections, the agency said, which could increase reports of a disease and result in additional information being identified and collected.

"Thus, it is possible that some of the cases currently being investigated represent infection which might normally occur and, as a result, are not related to the outbreak," the agency said.

Bausch & Lomb rattled both investors and consumers in mid-April when it announced it was suspending U.S. shipments of ReNu with MoistureLoc due to reports that some users had developed fungal keratitis. Since that time, several major U.S. retailers, including CVS and Walgreen's, have pulled the product from their shelves.

The company later reported some patients with the eye infection also reported using a ReNu MultiPlus solution. That product remains on the market.

Fungal keratitis is a painful inflammation of the cornea that can, in some cases, lead to blindness. The infection, caused by a fungus found in the environment, can appear as a result of eye injury, improper use of contact lenses or contaminated contact-lens products.

ReNu MultiPlus has been on the market since 1997 and has been used by an estimated 30 million people. ReNu with MoistureLoc, a much newer product, has about 2.3 million users, the company has said. The products are used to clean and disinfect contact lenses.

According to Bausch & Lomb, ReNu with MoistureLoc had 2005 sales of $45 million.


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