February 29, 2016
1 min read

Alcon clarifies focus on medical devices

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ATLANTA – An Alcon executive explained the company’s plans to separate its medical device and pharmaceutical businesses, during a company-sponsored press conference here at SECO.

Richard E. Weisbarth, OD, FAAO, Alcon vice president of professional affairs, detailed the rationale behind the changes that were announced in January.

“Moving to the future, Alcon will focus on the medical device area,” he said. “We have unique strengths in the surgical and vision care division. Both are classified by the FDA as medical devices, and it allows us to focus on that area.

“At the same time, we’re changing our pharmaceutical business,” he continued. “The products will still carry the Alcon name, but will report into Novartis Pharmaceuticals. The reason is to create a leading ophthalmic pharmaceutical business.”

Weisbarth explained the company’s perspective on the differences between the pharmaceutical and medical device businesses.

“Pharmaceuticals take years of research and development before you ultimately end up with a product,” he said. “We feel there’s tremendous expertise in Novartis from a business acumen standpoint, but, additionally, a tremendous pipeline in the research and development effort.

“As we move forward, every time they look at a new molecule or new compound, it will be tested systemically as well as for its ocular potential,” Weisbarth continued. “We feel this is a powerful change to help us navigate into the future and take things to the next level.”

He also discussed two “fundamentally different innovation models” for medical devices and pharmaceuticals.

“Medical device has fast, iterative, technology-driven innovation cycles and deep surgeon-eye care provider (ECP) relationships,” he said. “On the pharma side, there’s a longer R&D time; we’re not dealing as much with the ECP from a sales rep standpoint. That’s another reason why there was a change.

“We’re still one Alcon that has surgical products, medical devices and pharmaceutical,” he concluded. – by Nancy Hemphill, ELS, FAAO

Disclosure: Weisbarth is employed by Alcon.