Bausch + Lomb, a Valeant Pharmaceuticals company, has acquired Alden Optical Laboratories. The acquisition is the latest in a series of moves by Bausch + Lomb that sent ripples through the gas permeable subset of the contact lens industry
Alden, located in Lancaster, NY, will be part of Bausch + Lomb’s new specialty lens business, Bausch + Lomb Specialty Vision Products. The company plans to provide education and training for eyecare practitioners and specialty contact lens fitters.
Related: Valeant shakes up the GP lens market
“With this transaction, we’re trying to get rid of the great divide between the mass-produced lenses and specialty lenses,” says Mark McKenna, senior vice president and general manager of U.S. vision care at Bausch + Lomb, speaking exclusively to Optometry Times
. “These patients are walking through the door every day and being referred out to specialty fitters. We think that through education, we can really expand the category. We’re really excited about the shift from being a material manufacturer to becoming a finished lens producer.”
Discussions between Alden and Bausch + Lomb started in late October.
According to McKenna, the decision to acquire Alden was based on getting the best technology.
“The folks who run Alden are best in class,” he says. “We think that we can learn a lot from their fitting consultants and leverage some of their insights in social media and marketing to help us drive awareness and educate practitioners.”
Next: Alden leadership to stay on
Alden leadership to stay on
Tom Shone, president of Alden Optical, says the deal is a dream come true.
“The kinds of things that these guys have been talking about doing—how to drive the segment—are the kinds of things I’d love to do if I had infinite resources,” he says, speaking exclusively to Optometry Times
. “But as a small player and independent company, we didn’t want to sacrifice the business by going the private equity route and losing control. [Bausch + Lomb] is the
contact lens company from a legacy standpoint. It represents an opportunity for us to grow and be part of something we could never have done on our own. This is the kind of opportunity that doesn’t come around more than once.”
Related: Contact lens laboratory files suit against Valeant
Shone as well as Alden CEO Charley Creighton will stay with Bausch + Lomb for at least a year to help ensure a smooth transition.
“If I fast forward to 2017, the percentage of folks who will be fitting sclerals and other custom lenses is going to dramatically increase,” says McKenna. “We plan on investing in education for the fitters out there. We’re going to build out an organization. I can see Tom and Charley playing a much bigger role than they do today. They built a great business with not a lot of resources. I think we can benefit from their experience.”
Next: Changes in the GP market
Changes in the GP market
A quiet acquisition of Paragon Vision Sciences, price hikes, and withdrawal from industry support group Contact Lens Manufacturers Association (CLMA), as well as a desire to move into specialty contact lens manufacturing, have unsettled eyecare practitioners and CLMA member laboratories.
Says Jan Svochak, vice president of TruForm Optics and CLMA president: “This just confirms the industry should be concerned about—Valeant is ‘all in’ on this strategy to use its market position in the raw material business in an attempt to corner the finished lens business. They are gambling one for the other.”
However, Shone sees it differently.
“I think we made a lot of people happy,” he says. “The people who are going to shape this business, practitioners who are going to benefit from this acquisition, and the folks who are not in the specialty business but who are going to fall in love with what Bausch + Lomb brings to the table are going to be really happy with what’s going on. The people who are going to be disappointed are those who aren’t doing a lot of specialty fitting. They have other business interests in mind.”
Bausch + Lomb may be looking for additional laboratories to add to its Specialty Vision Products.
Says McKenna: “I can’t speak to other acquisitions. We’re looking to have a full range of specialty lens products. That’s going to happen via internal development. We’re certainly going to look at other opportunities externally as well.”
Questions still remain for some.
“There are quite a few things we still don’t know,” says Ed Bennett, OD, MSEd, FAAO, executive director of the GPLI and assistant dean for student services and alumni relations at University of Missouri–St. Louis College of Optometry. “There is still uncertainty about Paragon Vision Sciences. Is it for sale? What is the status? How will Alden’s products be positioned vs. other designs Bausch + Lomb has?”
McKenna declined to comment on the status of a potential sale of Paragon Vision Sciences
Next: What's next
Bausch + Lomb plans to roll out training and education to eyecare practitioners and specialty contact lens fitters.
“We didn’t communicate as well as we wanted to in terms of our vision, where we wanted to take this business and the fact that we wanted to invest in it,” says McKenna. “You’re going to see significant investment this year in doctor education. We’re going to be doing more B+Lieve events where we tie in specialty lens products.”
Tom Arnold, OD, says that more training will help optometrists better understand scleral and specialty lenses—and that will be better for patients.
“There’s a lot of curiosity among ODs around the country,” he says. “They haven’t had any training, and they might be intimidated by the size of the lens. The external marketing to patients will be great. I look forward to B+L developing forums like they’ve done with Ultra. It’s time to take sclerals from a boutique industry to the larger masses.”
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