Bausch + Lomb eyes pharma ops expansion

You might know it for its contact lenses, but Bausch + Lomb wants you to know it for its pharma offerings, too. Calling pharma his company's "hidden gem," B+L CEO Brent Saunders told PharmaTimes that he is looking to expand his company's pharma ops and wants to become the partner of choice. He has boldly predicted that therapies for age and diabetes-related eye disease could propel B+L's pharma division ahead of its vision and surgical businesses, making it the company's largest, Dow Jones Newswires reported.

"Eye disease is driven by two primary factors--age and diabetes. People today are living longer, and at the same time diabetes has become a world epidemic, and diabetes affects eye health. We believe the eye-health market over the next two years will grow 20%. Most of that is cataract--cataract surgery is the most common surgery in the world--and we're working on all aspects of that," Saunders told Dow Jones.

B+L's pharma unit has indeed looked strong over the past couple of years, posting strong double-digit growth. The company's products include steroid eye drops Lotemax and Besivance used to treat bacterial infections, and it has an increasing pipeline of drugs, including a treatment for dry eye disease.

Saunders also said he is eyeing licensing-in Phase II/III compounds and welcoming potential partners. "We have full capabilities to do everything," he told PharmaTimes. And that includes growing in emerging markets--a familiar theme echoed throughout the pharma world. He especially highlighted India and China, where there are "4.6 billion eyes. That's a lot of eyes."

This pharma emphasis could lead to changes in 2012. "At the moment our percentage breakdown is roughly 40%, 40%, 20% for pharma, vision and surgical, respectively. That should change next year, assuming current business development trends, to around 42% for pharma, 38% for vision care and 20% for surgical."

Saunders himself has a pharma background, serving as president of Schering-Plough's consumer healthcare unit. His old boss Fred Hassan (photo) took over as chairman of B+L's board in early 2010.

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