Alcon Ends UPP Program and Will Focus on its ‘Innovative Partnerships’ to Support ECPs

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FORT WORTH, Texas—Alcon has decided to end its Unilateral Pricing Policy (UPP) for contact lenses in a move the company said will bring an end to “competitive imbalance” that exists because of a Utah state law that prohibits such pricing strategies in Utah.

The move, which became effective Dec. 23, followed by just a few days a federal appeals court ruling denying an injunction that Alcon—along with Bausch + Lomb and Johnson & Johnson Vision Care—sought to keep the Utah law from being enforced during the companies’ lawsuit against the state that claims the law is unconstitutional, as reported by VMail earlier this week.

Utah’s Contact Lens Consumer Protection Act prohibits various commercial practices by contact lens manufacturers, including UPP and minimum advertised pricing (MAP) on contact lenses. Utah is the home state of 1-800 Contacts, which supported the state law banning these programs and which joined the lens companies’ lawsuit against the state as an “intervenor.”

In a memo to eyecare professionals, Alcon noted that it believes continuing its challenge to the Utah law “can distract from our efforts to serve our customers to the best of our ability. Accordingly, Alcon is ending its UPP, effective immediately, to avoid maintaining the competitive imbalance the Utah law introduces between Utah contact lens retailers and our customers in other states.” The memo was signed by Eric Bruno, general manager of Alcon’s U.S. Vision Care group.

Johnson & Johnson Vision Care had previously ended its UPP program, also, but remains a party to the lawsuit in federal court. Bausch + Lomb said late last week that it is “evaluating its options” at this time.

Alcon said it is “extremely disappointed in the court’s decision to allow the Utah law to remain in effect, as it believes the law violates the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution,” but that it remains committed to serving ECPs.

Bruno’s note to ECPs also noted that the company believes that UPP “generated significant procompetitive benefits for consumers, eyecare professionals and the market for vision care products.” The benefits of UPP included encouraging ECPs to “invest in learning about products covered by the UPP and educating their patients about the advantages of these products,” according to Bruno’s note.

Alcon, which was the first company to introduce UPP programs in 2013, said it remains committed to “supporting customers through its differentiated portfolio and innovative partnerships.” The programs and partnerships cited in the memo include:

• Ongoing investment in breakthrough technologies that advance patient eye health.
• Continuing to provide ECPs with simplified single column pricing for the latest contact lens innovations.
• Investing in patient programs such as Dailies Choice, which provide patients access to the latest technological advances in lenses, through high value consumer rebates.
• Developing unique and custom new packaging, specifically for the U.S. market, which will begin rolling out in 2017.
• Enhancing and investing in patient education and awareness about the advantages of contact lenses for vision correction through significant investment in direct-to-consumer advertising.