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Nestlé to Sell Stake in Alcon to Novartis

Nestlé, S.A. and Novartis, AG have reached an agreement to which Nestlé will sell 74 million of its shares of Alcon, Inc. common stock to Novartis in a cash transaction at a price of $143.18 per share, for a total of $11 billion. Once consummated, Novartis would own a minority stake in Alcon of approximately 25 percent of Alcon's outstanding shares, while Nestlé would remain Alcon's majority shareholder with approximately 52 percent of Alcon's outstanding shares. The transaction is expected to close in the second half of this year.

The agreement further contains optional put and call rights in which Novartis has exclusive rights to acquire Nestlé's remaining 52 percent stake for a fixed price of $28 billion, and Nestlé has the right to require Novartis to buy this stake, between Jan. 1, 2010 and July 31, 2011. Completion of these steps would make Alcon a majority-owned subsidiary of Novartis.

In addition, the agreement provides for the expansion of the Alcon board of directors from eight to 10 members, with one additional member designated by Nestlé and one designated by Novartis. The nominees for these additional board seats are James Singh, Nestlé's executive vice president and chief financial officer, and Daniel Vasella, MD, who is chairman and CEO of Novartis. Shareholders will vote on whether to expand the Alcon board and to elect these nominees at Alcon's upcoming Annual General Meeting on May 6, 2008, in Zug, Switzerland.

"The strategic fit of Alcon and Novartis is excellent with our complementary product portfolios and R&D synergies," said Dr. Vasella.

"I welcome Novartis as a minority investor, and I believe the agreement validates Alcon's leadership and bright future in the attractive and growing eye care market," said Cary Rayment, Alcon's chairman, president and CEO.

Oasys Now Available in Plano
Vistakon's Acuvue Oasys Brand Contact Lenses with Hydraclear Plus are now available in a plano lens for therapeutic use (8.4mm base curve). The FDA approved the lens for therapeutic use as a bandage lens for certain acute and chronic ocular conditions in October 2007.

TVCI Adds Satellite Program in Oklahoma

The Vision Care Institute, LLC, is extending its professional-level training opportunities for optometry students with distance learning and live programming at on-campus satellite centers to The Northeastern State University Broken Arrow Oklahoma College of Optometry (NSUOCO). It is the fifth optometry school to participate.

"The Vision Care Institute satellite learning center at the Broken Arrow Campus of North-eastern State University Oklahoma College of Optometry is the key link in completing the connection of the NSU state-of-the-art campuses. This link also ties the remote rural constituents to the urban metroplex. Continuing education and new knowledge and skills are now accessible as never before," said Dr. George Foster, Dean of NSU-OCO. "The satellite learning center allows all the various college and professional constituents to hold important meetings and conferences without leaving home. I anticipate a high demand for its use by faculty and students and anticipate that it will help promote professional private practice for our graduates."

Blanchard, Rose K Sponsor NKCF

At the recent Global Keratoconus Congress in Las Vegas, Blanchard Contact Lens and Rose K International presented the National Keratoconus Foundation (NKCF) with a 2008 annual sponsorship contribution of $10,000. Blanchard and Rose K International have partnered with NKCF in past years with similar contributions to support the NKCF's Patient Outreach and Education Program of the Discovery Eye Foundation as part of the organization's ongoing support and commitment for keratoconus patients.

"As manufacturer of the Rose K family of lens products in North America, and in recognition and support of keratoconus contact lens practitioners fitting Rose K lenses, we feel an obligation to provide continued support for the dedication and efforts the National Keratoconus Foundation provides these patients," said Lee Buffalo, director of Sales and Marketing at Blanchard.

"Blanchard Contact Lens and Rose K International are companies with a strong commitment to the keratoconus population. Their contribution will enable the NKCF to provide information and resources to keratoconus patients worldwide," said Catherine Warren, RN, executive director of the NKCF.

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Metro Optics has agreed to distribute the Rose K and Essential product lines for Blanchard Contact Lens, adding to Metro Optics' own multifocal and keratoconus offerings.
This partnership positions Metro Optics as the only lab in the United States offering both FDA cleared keratoconus lens designs, the ComfortKone and the Rose K family of lenses. Company officials said that the addition of Blanchard's Essential GP multifocal line to Metro Optics' GP and soft multifocal lines — Metro Progressive, Metro Seg, Metro-Focal and SaturEyes — creates a synergy of contact lens products to offer the rapidly growing presbyopic community.

TVCI and Wharton School Offer Business Program

The Chief Executive Optometrist, a program from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and The Vision Care Institute, LLC, has been set for December.

The program, which is designed to offer optometrists the business skills necessary to maximize the earning potential from their practices, will be held from Dec. 11 to 14, 2008 at The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, Steinberg Conference Center in Philadelphia.

The curriculum combines business strategies and tactics from Wharton professors with case studies and best practices from both Fortune 500 companies and optometry industry experts.

Tuition for the program is $3,500 and includes lodging and meals. Registration information is available by calling (800) 255-3932 (United States or Canada) or +1-215-898-1776 (worldwide). Or apply online at — go to Open Enrollment, HealthCare.

J&J Sponsors U.S. Soccer Teams
Johnson & Johnson Vision Care, Inc. has become an official sponsor of the U.S. Soccer Federation (USSF), the national governing body for the sport of soccer in the United States. Johnson & Johnson will sponsor the U.S. Men's National Team, the U.S. Women's National Team and the U.S. Youth National Team in 2008. In addition, Johnson & Johnson will provide national team members with Acuvue contact lenses — the official lens of the U.S. National Teams — when an eye exam determines that a corrective Acuvue lens is right for them.
Through the USSF sponsorship, the company will also educate athletes and fans about the important role vision plays in sports performance. The outreach will also extend beyond sports by showing the benefits of better vision in other aspects of daily life, such as driving, working on a computer or in the classroom.

Amsterdam Hosts NCC CL Meeting

The bi-annual Dutch Contact Lens Congress (NCC 2008) took place in Veldhoven the Netherlands on March 16 and 17, attracting a total of 1,250 unique visitors to this meeting and exhibition devoted solely to contact lenses. Coordinated by conference chairman Marco van Beusekom, NCC is now among the largest contact lens meetings in the world. NCC 2008 featured 20 international speakers from 10 countries. Speakers from North America included Kathy Dumbleton, MSc, MCOptom; Art Epstein, OD, FAAO; Lyndon Jones, PhD, FCOptom; Brian Levy, OD, MSc, FAAO; and Jeff Walline, OD, PhD.

A highlight of the event was a debate on corneal staining. This session was hosted by Dr. Jones and included on one side — emphasizing the importance of corneal staining — Eric Papas, PhD, BSc, MCOptom, DipCL (Australia); Dr. Epstein; and Dr. Helmer Schweizer (Switzerland). The other side — arguing that "the importance of staining is overrated" — included Phillip Morgan, PhD, MCOptom, FAAO, and Peter Frampton from the United Kingdom as well as Dr. Levy.

The next NCC meeting will take place March 14 and 15, 2010.

Eyecare Business Editor Honored With Pleiades Award
■ Stephanie K. De Long, editor-in-chief of Eyecare Business magazine and a 22-year veteran of the optical industry, was this year's recipient of the 9th annual Pleiades Award. This award was presented by the Optical Women's Association (OWA) on Friday April 11 at the Marchon showroom in New York.
Stephanie has been editor-in-chief of Eyecare Business, a sister publication to Contact Lens Spectrum, since 1990. She is a founding board member of the OWA, a member of The Vision Council's Marketing & Communications Committee and is a recipient of the OLA's Directors' Choice Award and Folio's Editorial Excellence Award.
The Pleiades Award spotlights an individual who has shown commitment to the mission of the OWA by fostering the growth of women in the industry.
"I am thrilled to receive this award," stated De Long, "especially because it is presented by my peers, the women of optical. I've spent a good part of my career in this business, and have seen the industry — and the role of women in it — change and grow."

Paragon Vision Sciences has announced that Paragon CRT may emerge as an answer to eye dryness and discomfort experienced by soft lens wearers. The company stated that wearing no lens at all during waking hours addresses functional issues associated with day time contact lens wear and that patients with low to moderate dry eye seem to do well wearing CRT lenses during sleep.

Alcon recently announced that it plans to build a facility in Singapore that will manufacture pharmaceuticals to be distributed throughout most of Asia. The company plans to break ground in 2009 with the plant being fully functional in 2012.

SECO International announced the recipients of its four 2008 awards, recognizing significant contributions to the profession of optometry. Norman Johnson, OD, was named Optometrist of the South; Darby Chiasson, OD, received SECO's Young Optometrist of the South award and Cheryl Gallant was named Paraoptometric of the South. The Presidents Award was given to Richard Weisbarth, OD, FAAO.

■ The Board of Directors of the Heart of America Contact Lens Society also announced its 2008 award winners, naming William Cochran, OD, as 2008 Optometrist of the Year and presenting the 2008 Vision Service Award to Richard Weisbarth, OD, FAAO.

■ The American Optometric Association will again offer its "New in Practice Series" of courses at its 2008 annual meeting in Seattle on June 26 and 27. The series will cover a comprehensive range of practice management topics geared specifically to students and optometrists in practice 10 years or less, or to optometrists gearing to change practice settings. The courses are sponsored by an educational grant from CIBA Vision. Visit

Bausch & Lomb and Galapagos NV, a drug discovery company, have entered into a collaborative research agreement in which B&L will have the exclusive option to license select Galapagos compounds as development candidates for therapeutic uses in ophthalmic diseases. B&L is responsible for the preclinical and clinical development of the select compounds.

■ More than 400 AOA optometrists and representatives of the National Optometric Association, the American Optometric Student Association and the Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry converged on Capitol Hill last month to meet with U.S. senators and representatives for the 2008 AOA Congressional Advocacy Conference: Advocacy for Optometry's Future. The goal was to raise new awareness of optometry and to advance AOA-backed legislation that's now before Congress.

Bausch & Lomb held a program last month called Changing 100 Lives in 100 Minutes in which 100 participating ophthalmologists across the United States implanted Crystalens intraocular lenses in 100 low-income patients free of charge. The program kicked off with implantation of the 100,000th Crystalens.

■ The Vision Council of America has rebranded as The Vision Council and launched a new Web site at The organization's core services will remain the same and new programs will be added. The organization will also refine services provided to eyecare professionals, such as marketing materials and CE courses.

Sirion Therapeutics, Inc. announced data from two Phase 3 clinical trials of Durezol (difluprednate ophthalmic emulsion) 0.05%, a topical steroid for treating postoperative ocular inflammation. Findings showed that Durezol at both b.i.d. and q.i.d. dosing regimens was superior to placebo in achieving the primary endpoint of proportion of subjects with an anterior chamber cell grade of 0 (less than or equal to 1 cell) on Day 8. Durezol was well tolerated with few treatment related adverse events.

Ista Pharmaceuticals reported topline results of a clinical trial of Xibrom (bromfenac sodium ophthalmic solution) q.d. (once-daily) 0.18% formulation. The findings demonstrated equivalence between the 0.18% formulation and Ista's 0.09% Xibrom formulation given once daily in achieving absence of ocular inflammation 15 days following surgery.