Crisis Management at Bausch & Lomb - The 'ReNu Moistureloc' Controversy

            
 
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Case Details:

Case Code : MKTG129
Case Length : 21 Pages
Period : 2005-2006
Organization : - Bausch and Lomb
Pub Date : 2006
Teaching Note : Available
Countries : USA, Asia
Industry : Eye Care

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The 'ReNu Moistureloc' Controversy "Bausch & Lomb's first priority is the health and safety of consumers. If there is a problem with our product (ReNu with MoistureLoc), we'll find it and we'll fix it. If there's not, when we come back, you'll be able to know with absolute certainty that we've taken every possible step to ensure your safety." 1

- Ronald Zarrella, Chief Executive Officer of Bausch & Lomb Inc. (B&L), in April 2006.

"They (B&L) couldn't have done a worse job. It's almost as if they looked at the handbook on crisis management and threw it out the window." 2

- Paul Argenti, Professor of Corporate Communications, Dartmouth College's Tuck School of Business, 3 in April 2006.

Bausch & Lomb in the Public Eye

On April 10, 2006, eye care company Bausch & Lomb Inc. (B&L) temporarily suspended the US shipments of its contact lens4 cleaner, ReNu with MoistureLoc (ReNu MoistureLoc) produced at its Greenville, South Carolina, U.S.A, manufacturing facility. This was done in order to facilitate a US Food and Drug Administration (FDA)5 investigation into reports of a fungal infection, Fusarium keratitis6 (keratitis), among contact lens wearers in the US.

B&L voluntarily suspended its US shipments of ReNu MoistureLoc following an FDA warning to the consumers to use ReNu MoistureLoc with caution. The FDA had issued this warning on the basis of an investigation by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),7 which was reviewing 109 cases of suspected keratitis in the US. Though the CDC did not directly link the infection to ReNu MoistureLoc, it said that when it interviewed 30 affected people, a high proportion (26 out of 30) of the affected people had used B&L's ReNu MoistureLoc solution.

B&L's CEO, Ronald Zarella (Zarella), said, "The CDC has not determined if these reports represent an increase of Fusarium keratitis infections and is continuing to investigate the association, if any, of these cases with any product. Nonetheless, in the interest of public health, we will voluntarily suspend U.S. shipments of ReNu with MoistureLoc while we pursue all appropriate steps to bring this investigation to a definitive conclusion."8

On April 13, 2006, B&L voluntarily asked US retailers to temporarily remove ReNu MoistureLoc from their shelves. It also recommended that consumers switch to other lens care solutions, so as to prevent any confusion among contact lens wearers about what to do while the investigation was going on. B&L stressed the fact that the report of such cases was linked only to the ReNu MoistureLoc manufactured at its Greenville plant and did not apply to any other B&L products -other lens care solutions of ReNu or to the ReNu MoistureLoc made in factories outside the US. (Refer to Exhibit I for some key sub-brands of B&L and Exhibit II for its lens care products).

However, B&L's corrective action did not impress analysts, marketers, and medical specialists, many of whom felt that the eye care company had not done enough to inform the 30 million wearers of contact lenses in the US about the full extent of the problem. Analysts felt that B&L should have informed the public about the health issues linked with ReNu MoistureLoc as soon as it had come to know about it.

They also felt that B&L should have recalled the product from the market in February 2006 itself, when it first came to know about the association of keratitis with ReNu MoistureLoc. They believed that B&L might have to pay the price for not acting promptly in the face of this crisis. The analysts feared that B&L might have damaged its customer relations and that its brand name might have been permanently tainted due to this incident.

Crisis Management at Bausch & Lomb - Next Page >>


1] Jeff Tannenbaum and Kerry Young, “Company Ends Sale of Lens Cleaner,” www.philly.com, April 14, 2006.

2] "Bausch & Lomb Withdraws Lens Cleaner from U.S. Market (Update2),” www.bloomberg.com, April 13, 2006.

3] Darmouth College, located at Hanover, New Hampshire, USA, is a private academic institution. Founded in 1769, it is a member of the Ivy League. The Tuck School of Business Administration was founded in 1900 at Dartmouth College. It is one of the six Ivy League business schools.

4] A contact lens is a corrective, cosmetic, or therapeutic lens usually placed on the cornea of the eye.

5] The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is a government agency in the US responsible for regulating food, dietary supplements, drugs, cosmetics, medical devices, biologics and blood products.

6] Keratitis is an infection of the eyes caused by fungus. It can scar the corneas, potentially leading to blindness. Symptoms can include blurry vision, pain or redness, increased sensitivity to light and excessive discharge from the eye.

7] The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, Georgia, USA, is recognized as the leading United States agency for protecting the public health and safety of people. The CDC provides credible information to enhance health decisions and promotes health through strong partnerships with state health departments and other organizations.

8] Bausch & Lomb, Press Release, “Bausch & Lomb Temporarily Suspends U.S. Shipments of ReNu with ReNu MoistureLoc Produced at Greenville, S.C., Manufacturing Facility Pending Investigation of Reports of Fusarium Infections Among Contact Lens Wearers,” www.bausch.com, April 10, 2006.


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