US contact lens maker to suspend Russia supplies

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Esha Saxena Mandala
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US contact lens maker to suspend Russia supplies,Johnson & Johnson’s brands reportedly account for roughly half of the sanctioned country’s total sales

American pharmaceuticals giant Johnson & Johnson is planning to suspend deliveries of contact lenses to Russia, RIA Novosti reported on Thursday, citing the corporation’s official distributor in the country.

The news follows a report in the Kommersant newspaper on Wednesday that Johnson & Johnson had informed retailers of an upcoming suspension of supplies.

Russia’s contact lens market is heavily dominated by US manufacturers, whose overall share is at least 70%. Johnson & Johnson’s most popular brands such as Acuvue Oasys and Acuvue True Eyes account for roughly half of the total volume of contact lenses sold in Russia, according to Kommersant. Russia will face a deficit of lenses once the supplies stop, the outlet has warned.

Among the alternatives to US-made lenses are brands manufactured in China and South Korea, although they are not widely available in Russia, Kommersant reported. Domestic brands only account for up to 15% of the market, but according to the Ministry of Industry and Trade, Russia has the capability to increase production and can fully compensate for the potential loss of American imports.

The ministry added that should the imports stop, contact lenses would be included in the list of goods approved for parallel imports, a practice by which a non-counterfeit product is imported without the permission of the intellectual property owner via alternative supply channels. Russia has legalized the mechanism to provide the market with goods that Western companies stopped delivering or producing in Russia because of sanctions.

The US imposed additional restrictions on Russia last week, halting the export of a wide range of consumer goods.

“You can’t even ship contact lenses or sunglasses now,” Reuters quoted Washington lawyer Kevin Wolf, a former Commerce Department official, as saying. According to Wolf, “it would be simpler to describe the items that are not controlled for export to Russia.”

Since the start of the conflict in Ukraine last February, retail prices for contact lenses have doubled in Russia. A six-lens pack of Acuvue Oasys that lasts six weeks costs the equivalent of $60 in Russia, compared to roughly $20 in the EU.

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