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Rival Product’s Approval Seen Aiding Implantable Lens Firm

Rival Product’s Approval Seen Aiding Implantable Lens Firm

WALL STREET WEST

Getting to market first with a new product ordinarily is an advantage, but that’s not how investors in Staar Surgical Co. responded after the FDA approved a competitor’s implantable contact lens.

Shares of the Monrovia-based optics company actually rose 4.5 percent to close at $5.75 on Sept. 13 on the news that the Food and Drug Administration had approved the Verisyse lens, manufactured by the Dutch company Ophtec BV and distributed by Advanced Medical Optics Inc. of Santa Ana.

Staar has been seeking FDA approval for its own implantable lens but has been held up by regulators’ concerns over its manufacturing and quality assurance systems. Company officials have said they hope to receive approval later this year.

Investors were apparently encouraged by the fact that any implant lens got approved by the FDA and with good reason, said Dr. Andrew Caster, a Beverly Hills laser surgeon.

“These are competing products, but I don’t think first to market is an advantage here,” said Caster. “Each has its own advantages and disadvantages. There may be some patients for whom one lens or the other is more appropriate.”

Both lenses are implanted in the eye by surgeons who must first make slits in the cornea, but the Verisyse lens is placed in front of the iris (the colored part of the eye) while the Staar lens goes behind it.

The companies hope their lenses will eventually replace laser surgery as a preferred permanent treatment for near sightedness and other vision problems, but for now the procedures will be aimed at patients with severe vision problems who are not good candidates for laser surgery.

Laurence Darmiento

Iraq Opening

A move by the Army to consider rebidding some of Halliburton Co.’s military logistics work in Iraq caught Aliso Viejo-based Fluor Corp. by surprise.

Fluor said it’s following the developments closely to see whether the engineering company might nab some more work in Iraq.

“We’ll certainly be interested if the Army does decide to break this contract up,” said spokesman Jerry Holloway. “We have bid on and performed logistics work for the government and military in the past. It’s premature to be commenting on what we would or wouldn’t do, since the Halliburton contract is very broad in terms of the kinds of services it covers.”

The Kellogg Brown & Root unit of Houston-based Halliburton has been handling an estimated $13 billion of Iraq-related work, which was awarded to the company as part of a broad-based 2001 military service contract.

Pentagon officials said they’re now considering breaking up the contract into several smaller ones to improve efficiency and cut costs.

“Competition is the cornerstone of contracting,” said Army spokeswoman Col. Nancy Ray. “But no contracting decision would be made that would affect U.S. troops. We’re still at the early stages of determining what might be suitable for rebidding.”

The work involves feeding, housing and looking after U.S. troops in Iraq. Halliburton has been a rival for Fluor and other big engineering companies competing for rebuilding contracts in Iraq, along with work on oil projects.

Halliburton faces accusations of overbilling the military and failing to properly account for the costs related to its work. Halliburton officials said two weeks ago that they might not submit new bids if the work is broken up.

Fluor could be a strong bidder if the Army goes ahead with plans to rebid the contracts.

Earlier this year, Fluor won a $100 million order from the Air Force to build military barracks outside Baghdad. It also won part of a $65 million order headed by Long Beach-based Earth Tech Inc. to rebuild an abandoned Iraqi military base, and is doing various other barracks-related work.

Orange County Business Journal

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