Profit vs. Eyeballs
On March 3, Bausch & Lomb received a phone call from Dr. David S. Chu, a specialist in cornea diseases. Three of his recent patients had a fungal infection that could make them blind; the infection could actually force him to remove the entire eye.
They had all used Bausch & Lomb's ReNu brand lens cleaners.
It was soon discovered that Bausch had agreed to stop selling its ReNu brand cleaner in Hong Kong and Singapore already in February.
But Bausch didn’t tell American consumers about that.
According to the New York Times, “the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it had confirmed 122 cases of the fungal infection, 15 possible ones and 60 still under investigation in 33 states and territories. Bausch customers make up the vast majority of those affected. No official reports exist on the health impact of the outbreak, but a Florida woman has lost an eye and scores of other patients have undergone restorative corneal transplant surgery that has left them with astigmatism and other impairments.”
From February 2006, until May 2006, Bausch continued selling a product which could make your blind.
But wait, there’s more.
In a filing with the F.D.A. already in December, 2005, Bausch reported 15 infections in Hong Kong among MoistureLoc users but claimed “there were no indications of problems with the product.”
On May 15 Bausch finally withdrew MoistureLoc, a $100-million-a-year product, from global markets, and they are stepping up efforts to persuade lens wearers to use an older ReNu version, MultiPlus.
Dr. John Bullock, a former ophthalmologist who is currently an epidemiologist at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio, and who was one of the first to report a possible outbreak to regulators, said, according to NY Times, "I want to see more evidence, but if a patient asked me now whether to use MultiPlus, I'd say throw it away."
And what does Bausch say?
"I wish we had made the decision the first day not to sell or use it," Angela Panzarella, vice president for global vision care at Bausch, said.
Read the entire story here.