Novartis's CIBA Vision division has reached a global settlement with Johnson & Johnson Vision Care to license CIBA's ?Nicholson' patents for silicone hydrogel contact lens technology. The terms of the agreement are confidential. The settlement ends ongoing litigation in the U.S. as well as several European countries.

The agreement covers J&J's full portfolio of silicone hydrogel contact lenses, including Acuvue Oasys, Acuvue Advance and 1-Day Acuvue TruEye. It allows Johnson & Johnson to continue to manufacture, market and sell its silicone hydrogel contact lenses on a worldwide basis under a licence from CIBA, including markets where the products are currently affected by under court-ordered injunction.

Thanks to the deal, for example, Acuvue Oasys products are again available in France where sales were suspended in April 2009 following a court ruling due to the litigation. Sales had also been suspended by a court decision in the Netherlands.

Johnson & Johnson also report this week that its worldwide vision care business, which is part of its medical devices and diagnostics unit, grew to $659 million in the fourth quarter of 2010, up 6.6 percent over year-ago. The company said its U.S. vision care business grew to $212 million, a 12.8 percent increase over year-ago.

The company's worldwide vision care business increased its sales for the full year by 6.9 percent to $2.7 billion. In the U.S., revenues from vision care grew by 4.8 percent to $934 million. Vistakon's disposable contact lenses were a primary contributor to operational sales growth, J&J said.

The whole group reported overall sales of $15.6 billion for the quarter, a decrease of 5.5 percent as compared to the fourth quarter of 2009. Operational sales declined 5.1 percent and the negative impact of currency was 0.4 percent.

For the full financial year, global sales were $61.6 billion, a decrease of 0.5 percent versus 2009. Operational sales declined by 1.3 percent.

Net earnings for the fourth quarter were $1.9 billion, a 12 percent decrease from year-ago. Fourth-quarter net earnings were impacted by after-tax charges of $922 million representing the net impact of litigation settlements, product liability expense and product recall costs. Excluding these special costs, net earnings for fourth quarter were $2.9 billion, up 0.6 percent as compared to the same period in 2009.

Net earnings for the full-year included an after-tax gain of $55 million representing the net impact of litigation settlements, product liability expenses and product recall cost. They reached $13.3 billion, up 8.7 percent from 2009, according to J&J. Excluding an after-tax restructuring charge of $852 million and an after-tax gain of $212 million representing the net impact of litigation settlements, J&J's net earnings for the full-year were $13.3 billion.

Worldwide sales of medical devices and diagnostics went up by 4.4 percent for the full year to $24.6 billion, with an operational increase of 3.4 percent and a positive impact from currency of 1.0 percent. Domestic sales increased 3.6 percent. International sales rose by 5.0 percent, which reflected an operational increase of 3.0 percent and a positive currency impact of 2.0 percent.