Alcon CEO’s message during pandemic: Control what you can control
In August, Alcon released its second quarter and half-year financial results. According to a company press release, the second quarter saw sales of $1.2 billion, a decrease of 36%.
The decrease, which was mainly attributed to fallout from COVID-19, was partially offset by growth in sales of the PanOptix IOL and Pataday OTC, according to the release. Sales for the first half of 2020 were $3 billion, a 17% decrease, with the pandemic offsetting strong sales at the start of the year.
Following the release of these financial results, Healio/OSN talked with Alcon CEO David J. Endicott about the effects of the pandemic on the company, how the company has adapted to the “new normal” and what the company has planned going forward.
Healio/OSN: The pandemic hit approximately 1 year after the Alcon spinoff from Novartis. To what do you attribute growth since then?
Endicott: PanOptix has been a big positive for us, and our contact lens business is on the verge of launching new products. Precision1 daily disposables have done well, and Dailies Total1 have as well. We also have toric versions coming out.
We are pleased with the product flow right now. The big message we continue to give the organization is “control what you can control” because we cannot do much about what the pandemic has done to the market or the shutdowns or the rate at which surgeries come back. What we can do is continue to develop products, get them out there, make them available to surgeons and patients, and do that well.
Healio/OSN: How have you adapted to meet the needs of ophthalmologists and optometrists?
Endicott: Early on, we were keen to understand what the challenges and the practices were, so we did a lot of listening. We were one of the first to develop a virtual product site for the American Academy of Optometry and the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery meetings, and we continue to bring online almost all of our educational events and product information. Our website is a hub of helpful information resources. And, we have gone virtual with almost all of our sales force, while keeping our service teams and all of our clinical services group.
Healio/OSN: What does Alcon offer that helps surgeons with enhancing practice and surgical efficiency and safety?
Endicott: I am excited about the potential of our new biometer, Argos, which is a fast and accurate machine that does a lot to speed patients through the clinic without needing to take two or three measurements. One and done.
Aside from the obvious, most important benefit of giving a 3D visual depth of field, the Ngenuity 3D visualization system is a way of keeping a little bit more distance from the patients in the OR, which is helpful even in a sterile environment. The bigger issue for surgeons, I think, is posture and their long-term health and durability. I believe the Ngenuity helps there and in other ways, for example, staff can move in the OR a little bit. They can see what is going on, and they can anticipate what is happening. Because of that, everybody has a faster, easier experience.
It is not easy trying to keep the supply chain running in the pandemic. I am pleased with the effort of our manufacturing teams who have been working day in and day out to keep all these products flowing.
Healio/OSN: Many surgeons are saying there has been a surge in refractive surgery. How does that affect Alcon?
Endicott: Refractive surgeries seems to be doing better on the bounce-back than cataract surgeries, but I would not say they are back to “normal” levels.
The refractive surgery bounce-back makes sense, though, because the younger demographics are not taking vacations, are not moving about and are not spending on expensive dinners, so they have a little bit of money to spend on themselves, and that seems to be what may be helping this market a little bit.
PanOptix has done well. Principally, it is the first trifocal that gives genuinely good intermediate and near vision at the focal points that are most functional for patients.
Healio/OSN: What are your plans for the Vivity IOL in the U.S.?
Endicott: We are excited about the opportunity to give patients a genuinely non-diffractive IOL, and we are in the process of building inventory for the U.S. We have a lot of data, and we are waiting for a good bit of that data to mature so that we can be specific about where to use this, how to use it and how it fits with PanOptix.
Healio/OSN: What are the highest subspecialty growth areas that Alcon would be interested in investing in?
Endicott: If it is in eye care, we are probably looking at it. There is a lot of blue ocean out there for us in terms of next ideas and markets we are not in. – by David W. Mullin