April 17, 2008, O'Fallon, MO--Synergetics USA, a leading microsurgical device company, has filed a civil antitrust lawsuit against Alcon Inc. and its primary operating subsidiary in the U.S., Alcon Laboratories, asserting that it has suffered losses in the tens of millions of dollars resulting from Alcon's alleged unfair practices in the vitreoretinal surgery market. Synergetics seeks a recovery that it believes could exceed $100 million.
In its filing with the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, Synergetics alleges that Alcon has used its monopoly power in the market for vitrectomy machines used in vitreoretinal surgery, to control purchasing decisions in favor of its surgical illumination sources and associated accessories, and has done this to the detriment of sales of Synergetics' products, particularly of the Photon line of light sources, light pipes, laser probes and other accessories.
The lawsuit describes anti-competitive behaviors, which include commercial disparagement of Synergetics' products; payment of grant monies to surgeons, hospitals and clinics in order to influence purchasing decisions; the maintenance of an Advisory Board comprised of hundreds of surgeons, each of whom are required to buy Alcon's products for their practices, and many of whom receive benefits far beyond their contributions, including annual six-figure consulting fees; predatory pricing; the hiring of a key Synergetics' manager to gain access to specific key product information; an unlawful rebate program; and a threat to Synergetics of further market lock-out unless given a license to use some of Synergetics' key patented technologies.
The suit also describes an alleged scheme employed by Alcon to gain and maintain market share by making sales of its light pipes conditional to sales of its patented fluid collection cassettes that are required in order to perform each vitreoretinal surgery.
"For years Synergetics and other smaller companies have been forced to watch as Alcon unfairly and increasingly controlled the vitreoretinal surgical markets, escalating healthcare costs while stifling innovative and cost effective technological advances. This activity has been detrimental to surgeons and patients, not to mention the healthcare system. Our experience has convinced us that without this action, Alcon will drive all other players from the vitreoretinal surgical market," said Gregg Scheller, president and CEO of Synergetics USA. "The price of vitreoretinal surgery has skyrocketed under Alcon's dominance. Unfair business practices hurt all players in our industry. Although we have a substantial neurosurgical business in which we compete with other large competitors, this type of egregious behavior is never encountered."
Alcon is majority owned by Nestle, S.A., the world's largest food and beverage company, and is self-described as the largest and most trusted eye care company worldwide.