In the midst of an ongoing investigation into possible links between Bausch & Lomb's ReNu solution with MoistureLoc and an infection that could cause blindness, several reports in consumer publications have prompted large retailers in the USA like Wal-Mart and Walgreens to pull some or all of the company's ReNu solutions from their shelves, although the company advised customers last Apr. 13 that only those with MoistureLoc may be dangerous. The supected solutions were made at a U.S. factory in Greenville, South Carolina, so no such demand has been made to customers in Europe, India or China, where the corresponding product comes from other factories in Milan and elsewhere.

B&L maintains that it has performed ?exhaustive? tests on the product and has found no evidence directly linking it to the infection. However, the company has formally asked its customers in the USA to cease using it until further notice and to switch to one of its other products or even try using another respected brand.

The infection, called fusarium keratitis, originally broke out in Asia, and at first B&L only suspended the sales of its products only in that continent. The infection can scar the cornea and cause blindness. B&L said that it has been cooperating with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Center for Disease Control as the agencies continue to investigate the matter.

Company executives held an emergency meeting with financial analysts to discuss the dilemma following a major drop in the share price. Fearing a drop in their own sales of solutions, some competitors have made it a point to distance themselves from the epidemic. In a formal statement to Vision Monday, Advanced Medical Optics (AMO) said that in light of B&L's current situation it has reviewed all of the data concerning its Complete solution products and reaffirmed their safety. After discussions with health authorities in the USA and certain parts of Asia, CIBA Vision confirmed the safety of its lens-care products.

B&L's nightmare has worsened with a class action lawsuit filed in New York by ?the users of ReNu with MoistureLoc solution.? The law firm that is driving this case, Parker & Waichman, plans to take the case of a 53 year-old man who claims that he lost 85 percent of the vision in his left eye because of the solution.

B&L has not yet published its financial results for the past year, pending a review of its accounting practices in Brazil and Korea, although it has already declared dividends for the year and for the first quarter. Separately, B&L has named Dwain Hahs senior vice president and president of the Asia region, effective May 1. He was previously senior vice president and senior vice president of global operations and engineering, a position that is now occupied by Gerhard Bauer.