ROCHESTER, N.Y. – ReNu with MoistureLoc was being pulled from U.S. store shelves at the request of Bausch & Lomb (BOL) amid concern the contact lens solution may be linked to a fungal eye infection that can cause blindness.
The company also began placing advertisements in newspapers Friday suggesting consumers use another lens care solution for the time being. The ads feature a letter from Chairman and Chief Executive Ron Zarrella.
"We find ourselves in a position where the safety of one of our products, Renu with MoistureLoc manufactured at our United States plant, is in question," the letter said.
The 153-year-old eye-care company late Thursday asked U.S. retailers to remove the ReNu with MoistureLoc solution from store shelves temporarily, but did not request that the solution be returned to the company.
The action did not apply to other Bausch & Lomb products or ReNu with MoistureLoc made outside the United States.
The request came as several U.S. retailers, led by Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT), Walgreen Co. (WAG) and CVS Corp. (CVS), were pulling the ReNu with MoistureLoc solution off their shelves on their own, and with pressure for a recall mounting.
The company stopped shipments of MoistureLoc in the United States on Monday when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it was scrutinizing 109 reports of Fusarium keratitis infections in patients in 17 states over the last 10 months. Without eye-drop treatment the infection can scar the cornea and blind its victims. Symptoms can include blurry vision, pain or redness, excessive discharge and increased sensitivity to light.
Federal health officials have made no direct link between MoistureLoc and the infections, but a high incidence of affected patients interviewed had used the cleaner.
Inspectors from the Food and Drug Administration remained at Bausch & Lomb's factory in Greenville, S.C., Friday, an FDA spokeswoman said. The inspectors have been scouring the plant for about three weeks and have so far found no evidence of contamination, Zarrella said.
"If there is a problem with our product, we'll find it and we'll fix it," Zarrella's open letter said. "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."
Consumers wishing to return the product were directed to http://www.bausch.com or a toll-free number: 1-888-666-2258.
MoistureLoc hit stores in late 2004 and generated $45 million in U.S. sales last year — a small portion of Bausch & Lomb's more than $2 billion in annual revenues. The company also makes contact lenses, ophthalmic drugs and vision-correction surgical instruments.
More than 30 million Americans wear contact lenses, and analysts estimate that nearly 10 million of them use Bausch & Lomb lens care solutions.