Chiron Wins OK to Market Foldable Silicone Lenses


Chiron Ophthalmics Inc. said Wednesday that it has won federal approval to market two types of small, foldable silicone lenses for use in cataract surgeries.

The two lenses are designed to be easier to insert into the eye during cataract surgery, and, because they fold, require smaller incisions than other lenses, said William J. Link, president of the Irvine-based firm.

"The smaller the incision, the quicker the healing and the quicker the vision comes back," Link said. "There are likely fewer complications because the eye is less traumatized in the surgical procedure."

A competing foldable lens introduced in 1989 by Allergan Pharmaceuticals of Irvine is selling well, and Link estimated the overall U.S. market for foldable lenses, now worth about $25 million, will at least double in the coming years.

Link estimated that sales of the Chiron product will hit $7 million to $8 million next year and $20 million in 1993. Chiron had hoped to win approval of the Food and Drug Administration earlier this year, Link said, but added: "We're shipping the product as of today."

Chiron's stock, which is traded over the counter, rose $3.75 a share Wednesday to close at $68. Stock analyst David K. Stone of Cowen & Co. in Boston said the FDA approval had been expected and credited technical factors for the price increase.

"We think it's a positive announcement, but it is small relative to the other issues facing Chiron," Stone said.

Chiron is attempting to merge with another biotechnology company, Cetus Corp. of Emeryville, Calif., but Eastman Kodak Co., which has a dispute with Cetus, has filed a lawsuit in Delaware aimed at blocking the merger.

If the merger goes through, Stone said, the newly approved lenses could add earnings of 5 to 10 cents a share to the combined stock, which he estimates would earn roughly $1 a share in 1993.

Chiron Opthalmics is a subsidiary of Chiron Corp., also of Emeryville.

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