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Bob Carroll
Bob Carroll
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ReNu Eye Infections First Reported In Asia – In November

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We now live in a global economy. What happens in Asia can impact us in America. Bausch & Lomb apparently thought that what happens in Asia stays in Asia. According to the International Herald Tribune “clusters of Fusarium keratitis, the eye infection, began surfacing in Asia as far back as November” in connection with the use of Bausch’s ReNu With MoistureLoc solution.

Why did Bausch wait until April, 2006, to withdraw its product? That is the question many will be asking especially those who developed the infection in the U.S. in 2006. My contacts with victims who are experiencing significant eye problems as a result of using ReNu tell me plenty of people will want to know the answer.

While Bausch & Lomb may be worrying about the integrity of their brands, many are worrying about their ability to see.

We now live in a global economy. What happens in Asia can impact us in America. Bausch & Lomb apparently thought that what happens in Asia stays in Asia. According to the International Herald Tribune “clusters of Fusarium keratitis, the eye infection, began surfacing in Asia as far back as November” in connection with the use of Bausch’s ReNu With MoistureLoc solution.

Why did Bausch wait until April, 2006, to withdraw its product? That is the question many will be asking especially those who developed the infection in the U.S. in 2006. My contacts with victims who are experiencing significant eye problems as a result of using ReNu tell me plenty of people will want to know the answer.

While Bausch & Lomb may be worrying about the integrity of their brands, many are worrying about their ability to see.

The way crisis communications experts see it, Bausch & Lomb is like a student who wrote a good term paper, but handed it in too late to pass the course.

The company’s response mechanism has been in high gear since last Monday, when the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it was investigating 109 reports of a rare fungal eye infection that seemed to appear with higher frequency among wearers of soft contact lenses who use Bausch’s ReNu With MoistureLoc solution.

That Monday, Bausch stopped shipping ReNu With MoistureLoc from its plant in Greenville, South Carolina, and on Thursday it asked retailers to take the product off their shelves. It has told consumers to stop using the product, and has offered to exchange it for other Bausch products.

Its Web site has a lengthy letter from Ronald Zarrella, the chairman and chief executive, detailing how Bausch is cooperating with medical experts and epidemiologists to find out what is causing the infection. And on Friday, Bausch published the letter in full-page ads in USA Today and in some regional newspapers.

“We are devoting every effort to ensuring that customers know we are trying to get to the bottom of this,” said Meg Graham, a Bausch & Lomb spokeswoman.

Crisis consultants applaud all the moves. But they note that clusters of Fusarium keratitis, the eye infection, began surfacing in Asia as far back as November. So why, they ask, did Bausch wait so long to tackle the issue in the United States?

“They had plenty of warning,” said George Sard, chairman of Sard Verbinnen, a crisis management firm. “They kept taking this series of temporizing measures and half-steps, and they’ve probably exacerbated concerns about the integrity of their brands.”

“Bausch should have done what smart politicians do – called in the press, the analysts, the medical experts, certainly its critics, and say ‘we’ll talk about this until there’s nothing more to talk about,'” said Robert Dilenschneider, a New York communications consultant. “Instead, they made the same mistake Dick Cheney made after he shot his friend. They waited too long.”

Specifically, most brand specialists say Bausch should have withdrawn ReNu With MoistureLoc quickly – and loudly – in the United States as soon as problems emerged in Asia. At the very least, the experts say, Bausch should have withdrawn the product as soon as the Centers for Disease Control sent out its warning – something that many retailers did on their own.