Confirming the sentence of a lower court, a US federal court of appeals has ruled that Bausch & Lomb cannot manufacture or sell its PureVision contact lenses in the country until at least 2005 because they infringe on patents held by CIBA Vision for its own Night & Day continues wear lenses. If CIBA succeeds in some other legal challenges against B&L, its PureVision lenses may be kept off the market until 2014.

The ruling against PureVision in a lower US court caused B&L to record a 3 percent drop in its contact lens sales throughout the Americas region in the 4th quarter of last year, but new-technology lenses generated double-digit sales increase in Europe and Asia, resulting in global sales increases during the quarter of 13 percent in reported dollars and 8 percent in local currencies.

Revenues from lens care products rose by 8 percent in dollars and 7 percent in local currencies during the latest period, in spite of slight decline in Europe. In local currencies, pharmaceutical sales were up 9 percent, while sales of cataract surgery products were down 4 percent and refractive surgery product revenues were off 2 percent, due to lower laser sales in Europe.

B&L's total consolidated sales rose by 8 percent to $477.4 million in the 4th quarter, or by 5 percent in constant dollars, leading to a net profit of $32.4 million as compared to a net loss of $8.0 million in the same period a year ago, indicating an improvement of 30 percent before special charges and adjustments. For the full year, net income rose to $72.5 million from $21.2 million. Sales were up 9 percent to $1,817 million, with an 8 percent rise in local currencies.

Ron Zarella, chairman and CEO, thinks the favorable momentum will continue in 2003, with another profit improvement of about 30 percent, in spite of higher planned investments on R&D. Sales should increase in the mid-single digits, with contact lenses up in the upper single digits.

Meanwhile, Mark Sieczkarek, senior vice president of B&L and president of its Americas region, has left the company after 7 years. Prior to its latest post, he had been president of the Europe, Middle East and Africa region. He had been previously president of B&L's personal products division and of its former North American vision care division. Zarella will supervise the Americas until a successor is found. Barry W. Wilson, senior vice president of Medronic and president of Medtronic International, has been designated to join B&L's board of directors.