A Look at Bausch + Lomb
BY JASON J. NICHOLS, OD, MPH, PHD, FAAO
J. Michael Pearson, chairman of the Board and CEO, Valeant Pharmaceuticals International, Inc.
Our focus this month is on Bausch + Lomb (B+L), a division of Valeant Pharmaceuticals International, Inc. and a longstanding contact lens and care solution manufacturer. I recently had the pleasure to speak with J. Michael Pearson, chairman of the board and CEO, Valeant.
Q Mr. Pearson, please tell us a bit about your company in terms of its history and direction.
B+L has been an American treasure for more than 150 years. It began as a small optical goods shop in Rochester, NY, opened in 1853 by German immigrant John Jacob Bausch, who later asked his friend Henry Lomb to be his partner. B+L has a very strong history of innovation and has made significant contributions to the eyecare industry and beyond.
But B+L has had some troubled times over the last 30 years. It was acquired by private equity firm Warburg Pincus in 2007, but never really regained its glory under Warburg Pincus’ ownership. Valeant acquired B+L in August 2013. The company’s contact lens business had experienced a decline for more than a decade due to lack of innovation and strategy. Mark McKenna (vice president/general manager) and his team developed innovative ways to interact and partner with practitioners to rebuild what was lost.
A large part of that is mindset. We’re treating each eyecare business separately, and each of them focuses on innovation, new products, and growing the business. As a result, B+L is experiencing double-digit growth.
Q Tell us about any new products or new developments in which B+L is involved.
Our aspiration is to regain our place as a leading contact lens manufacturer, and we’re using creative customer-facing activities, coupled with great technology, to achieve that goal. For example, we have held eight B+Lieve Meetings where more than 100 practitioners spend the day trying B+L Ultra and Biotrue Oneday and learning the technology. We have also held more than 300 dinner meetings with more than 4,000 practitioners focusing on technology education of the B+L portfolio. I went to the first meeting, and at the conclusion, a number of attendees had forgotten that they were wearing a contact lens. More than 90% said it was the most comfortable lens they’ve ever worn. So practitioners are experiencing how great the technology is first-hand.
Valeant is heavily investing in new products and technologies. There are more products in the B+L pipeline now than there were before the Valeant acquisition. We have six new products coming out in the next 12 months, many of which feature novel designs and materials.
We’re continuing to invest in care solutions as well. In addition, we’re investing in specialty lenses and in lens care for specialty lenses. We will continue to invest heavily in physician education, and we plan to invest more in consumer awareness. We’re making similar investments in global markets—for example, we recently acquired novel cosmetic lens technology in the Asian market.
Q Tell us your vision for the contact lens field in the short term (less than 5 years) and in the long term (20 years from now).
Patients and practitioners are different around the world, and there’s not going to be any one solution for everyone. So we feel that we need to be investing in and tracking many different contact lens technologies.
We also believe that innovation doesn’t necessarily have to come from B+L; we’re looking in academia and at startups for inspiration as well, and we’re moving quickly when we see an idea or technology that will help grow this business. We think the contact lens market is a great space. If we can grow the entire pie, then everyone can succeed—and that’s a good thing. CLS
Dr. Nichols is an assistant vice president for industry research development and professor at the University of Alabama-Birmingham as well as editor-in-chief of Contact Lens Spectrum and editor of the weekly email newsletter Contact Lenses Today. He has received research funding or honoraria from Vistakon, Alcon, and Allergan.