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1st Disposable Contact Lenses Put on Market

June 22, 1988|United Press International

CHICAGO — Johnson & Johnson claimed victory Tuesday in the race to put the first disposable contact lenses on the market, saying its disposables will be on sale nationwide by the end of next month.

But contact lens industry giant Bausch & Lomb says it was a race it never wanted to win.

Johnson & Johnson, a New Jersey pharmaceutical giant, made its Acuvue disposable contact lens debut in Florida late last summer. The test market was expanded to California in February, officials said.

"Our marketing experiences in Florida and California--which together comprise 15% of the U.S. contact lens market--have been a major success story," said Bernard Walsh, president of Vistakon, which manufactured the lens for Johnson & Johnson.

He told a news conference in Chicago on Tuesday that the disposable lenses will be available to consumers nationwide by the end of next month.

'Don't Want to Be First'

When Johnson & Johnson first announced its new lenses in July, 1987, Bausch & Lomb said it had a similar product on the shelf but was not sure there was an adequate market.

"We think that it's the type of product we don't want to be first in," Bausch & Lomb Vice President Louis Baccei said last week at the grand opening of the company's new $22-million research and development complex in Rochester, N.Y.

"We certainly learned a lot through (Johnson & Johnson's) product testing," Baccei said.

Bausch & Lomb will begin the test marketing of its nearly identical product, SeeQuence, in California and Florida in early August, officials said. Both products are designed for one to two weeks' continuous wear, after which the lenses are thrown away.

The price of the new product is estimated to be about $30 a month, plus practitioner fees, which both companies said would be comparable to what contact wearers pay for traditional lenses, fluids, insurance and doctors.

Bausch, which recorded sales of $840.3 million in 1987, is the largest manufacturer of contact lenses, with a 26% market share, according to analysts.

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