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Opchat Magazine Industry NewsIndustry News, July to September 2020

Haag-Streit UK Announces Launch of the MR Q and MR Q Supine Laser Systems in the UK
The Ups and The Downs of the Covid-19 Hunt for a vaccination
1 October 2020 VAT changes for Opticians, more of a simplification than radical change
Covid-19 pandemic affects Patient Treatment Plans
Point of Sale Innovation by INVU
Boost for FMO current members by refund of subscriptions
Bayfields expands with three new acquisitions
B & L to segment eye business
The GLBL EYEWEAR Group sign leading specialist eyewear brand ZooBug
Non-UK optometrists and opticians eligible for Health and Care Visa
As Positive Data comes from AstraZeneca, Oxford Coronavirus Vaccine source, UK Governemnet confirms securement of 100 million doses
Novartis to Provide 15 Drugs at Zero-Profit for Treating COVID-19 Symptoms
Confirmation from Mr Frank Norville OBE: The Miracle has happened
Norville Optical Labs appear to have been saved after a £2.4m buyout from Inspecs.
Practice building boosts VCHP
FMO and Media 10 join forces to deliver one major UK industry show following the cancellation of Optrafair 2020
FMO agrees handover deal for Optrafair to the Media 10 owned 100% Optical
FMO statement on The Norville Group
Members of staff at Norvilles Gloucester start Go Fund Me listing to try to regain control from Administrators
The Norville Group, a British Optical Institution falls into Administration.
4D pharma: phase II study of MRx-4DP0004 in patients hospitalised with COVID-19 open for enrolment
Jobs saved as family retail firm is sold after 100 years of serving the West.
BGF focuses on Bayfields Opticians with new investment
New Essilor Commercial Director
Read the archived Industry News from April to June 2020

Haag-Streit UK Announces Launch of the MR Q and MR Q Supine Laser Systems in the UK

October 2020

Haag-Streit UK (HS-UK) has announced the launch of the Meridian MR Q and MR Q supine YAG lasers in the UK.

Haag Streit Yag Laser

The MR Q is a fully-integrated YAG laser, which features the latest technology for posterior capsulotomy, pupillary membranectomy, and iridotomy.

The laser boasts outstanding usability, featuring a rapid start-up time and an easy-to-use touch-screen display, according to Haag-Streit UK. The user can choose between anterior and posterior offset on one screen, ensuring an efficient workflow. The analogue rotary knobs, such as laser power and aiming beam brightness, are located on both sides of the laser head to provide a comfortable working position for left and right-handed users.

Additionally, Haag-Streit UK has introduced the MR Q supine, a fully-integrated ophthalmic laser for supine use, designed for capsulotomy and iridotomy. This is the only laser system on the market which allows the treatment of patients who are unable to sit at a slit lamp and is ideal for paediatric and elderly patients, according to Haag-Streit UK .

The MR Q supine laser features an LCD display with simple navigation between selection buttons. Control buttons change and monitor system information and an authentication pin code is in place for safety. The ergonomic 0-210° inclinable Haag-Streit Surgical binoculars allow comfortable operation.

The Ups and The Downs of the Covid-19 Hunt for a vaccination

September 2020

We hear a lot about the 9 "phase 3" vaccination trials when they first enter that scenario and let us all hope that at least a few will succeed with the necessary ability to ramp up production. Here below is good and partially hope-calming news that it is struggle for all the best brains in the world to contend with at speed.

We publish news from First Word.

J&J’s COVID-19 Vaccine “Highly Immunogenic” in Early-Stage Testing

Interim phase 1/2a study results for Johnson & Johnson’s experimental COVID-19 vaccine JNJ-78436735 have been published online on the preprint server medRxiv, with researchers saying that a single dose was “well tolerated and highly immunogenic,” and that the findings warrant further development at the lower dose level of 5×1010 viral particles (vp). The release of the early-stage data follows Johnson & Johnson’s recent announcement that it was advancing the vaccine into a phase 3 study targeting enrollment of 60,000 volunteers to test a single-dose regimen versus placebo.

The company said it is also planning to run a parallel phase 3 trial of a two-dose regimen of JNJ-78436735 versus placebo later this year. “The [interim analysis] data demonstrate that a single dose of JNJ-78436735 induced a strong neutralizing antibody response in nearly all participants,” Johnson & Johnson stated, adding that “immune responses were similar across the age groups studied, including older adults.”

Johnson & Johnson initiated the phase 1/2a placebo-controlled study of JNJ-78436735, also known as Ad26.COV2.S, at the end of July. The vaccine, a non-replicating adenovirus 26 vector expressing the stabilised pre-fusion spike (S) protein of SARS-CoV-2, was administered at a dose level of 5×1010 vp or 1×1011 vp per vaccination, either as a single dose or as a two-dose schedule spaced by 56 days in healthy adults.

Cohorts 1a and 1b included 402 participants from 18 to 55 years old, while cohort 3 enrolled 394 elderly participants over 65. The interim analyses were performed after the first dose of blinded safety data from cohorts 1a, 1b and 3, and group unblinded immunogenicity data from cohort 1a and 3.

Immune responses

SARS-CoV-2 neutralizing antibody titers were measured by wild-type virus neutralization assay (wtVNA). Researchers reported that after a single dose, the seroconversion rate in wtVNA at day 29 in cohort 1a already reached 92% with geometric mean titers (GMT) of 214, and 92% with GMTs of 243, for the lower and higher dose levels, respectively. Similar results were seen in the first 15 participants of cohort 3, where 100% seroconversion with GMTs of 196 were observed for the 5×1010 vp dose group, and 83% seroconversion with GMTs of 127 were seen at the 1×1011 vp dose level.

Seroconversion for S antibodies was observed in 99% of cohort 1a participants, with GMTs of 528 and 695 for the lower and higher doses, respectively, and in 100% of cohort 3 subjects, with GMTs of 507 and 248, respectively. Further, on day 14 post immunization, CD4+ Th1 immune responses were measured in 80% and 83% of a subset of participants in cohort 1a and 3, respectively, with no or very low Th2 responses. The researchers noted that CD8+ T cell responses were also “robust” in cohorts 1a and 3, at both dose levels.

Safety findings

As some participants have not yet received the planned second dose, the safety data included in this analysis were presented without disclosing the assignment of vaccine versus placebo.

In cohorts 1 and 3, solicited systemic adverse events were reported in 64% and 36% of participants, respectively. Fevers occurred in both cohorts 1 and 3 at rates of 19% and 4%, respectively, and were mostly mild or moderate, resolving within one to two days. The most frequent local adverse event (AE) was injection-site pain, while the most frequent solicited AEs were fatigue, headache and myalgia. No grade 4 AEs, either solicited or unsolicited, were reported in any cohort, and no one discontinued the study due to an AE.

There were two serious AEs, including one case of hypotension judged by the investigator not to be vaccine-related because of a past history of recurrent hypotension. Meanwhile, another participant with fever was hospitalized overnight because of suspicion of COVID-19, but the individual recovered within 12 hours, and the fever was subsequently judged by the investigator to be vaccine-related.

The researchers noted that while reactogenicity was acceptable in all groups, “there was a trend for higher reactogenicity with the higher vaccine dose and with younger age.”

And as a balance the Inovio’s COVID-19 Vaccine Candidate INO-4800 is hit by a FDA Partial Hold

Inovio Pharmaceuticals said that the FDA placed a partial clinical hold on a planned phase 2/3 study of its COVID-19 vaccine candidate INO-4800.

According to Inovio, the FDA has “additional questions” about the planned trial, including the CELLECTRA 2000 delivery device to be used in the study. The drugmaker noted that it is working to address the issues and plans to respond to the agency in October.

Unrelated to adverse events

Inovio noted that the FDA’s move is not due to the occurrence of any adverse events related to the ongoing phase 1 study of INO-4800, which is not impacted by the partial hold. Earlier this year, the company reported interim phase 1 data indicating that INO-4800 was “deemed safe and well-tolerated” through 8 weeks, but did not give any details about participants’ antibody response. Inovio later announced that the DNA vaccine was “effective” at protecting non-human primates from live virus challenge 13 weeks after the last vaccination, with results “mediated by memory T and B cell immune responses.”

FDA is increasingly erring to the side of caution.

Cantor analyst Charles Duncan suggested the delay creates a “management credibility challenge” for Inovio. He also said the FDA “appears increasingly cautious on COVID-19 vaccine programs,” pointing to recent reported plans by the agency to increase the number of severe cases of the disease needed to show efficacy, as well as the prudence with which it is handling a hold on AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine trial, which has resumed in other countries, but not in the US.

1 October 2020 VAT changes for Opticians, more of a simplification than radical change

September 2020

Very little has changed since the original business briefing on VAT accounting for Optical and Hearing practices co-written by Shaun King (then,Ernst Young) and Bob Hutchinson (Past Chair FODO) on behalf of the profession.

Bob Hutchinson, (Eros Business Consulting Ltd) comments on these changes:

“In the processes with effect from October 1st there is little relative change to policy except that businesses will no longer be required to seek prior approval for a Full Cost Apportionment method before its use.”

It also clarifies the requirements for those using the “Separately Disclosed Charges “Method.
These (SDC ) appear unchanged still stressing the need for separate disclosure being imparted on the till receipt for the dispensing charge separate to the professional fee and the other items and that a  requirement to show information is conveyed to them. Which I assume means some form of notices around the practice.”

From the Policy paper:

From 1 October 2020, the processes will be simplified.

There is currently no uniform standard of evidence required from businesses to show that they are making separately disclosed charges. Businesses will be required only to hold a till slip or similar evidence to demonstrate that they are making two separate charges to the customer at the time of supply, and that this information is being conveyed to the customer.
Those using a method of apportionment will no longer have to seek prior approval from HMRC before operating a method. This will bring opticians and dispensers of hearing aids into line with other businesses that apportion VAT on their sales.

Read the full guidance.

Bob Hutchinson, who continues to provide advice and  liaison between optical business and local HMRC officers further commented,” Whilst the ability to commence an FCA methodology without prior approval is welcomed I strongly suggest that practices take advice and investigate a fair FCA rate for apportionment as proof that the figure used is considered fair and reasonable by an HMRC approved agent. This provides a solid argument should a local officer disagree with an apportion rate, be it for contact lenses, spectacles or hearing aid supply.”

“This initial process also allows for a system of de minimis checking and advice to be put into place and an understanding of the dangers of excessive exempt purchases being made. Excesses in Exempt VAT on purchases can be very expensive to a business losing the right to reclaim such VAT.
The additional clarity that this paper provides is a welcome steer for us as advisors but bears no real change to the requirements.”

Link to Eros Business Consulting Ltd

Covid-19 pandemic affects Patient Treatment Plans

September 2020

Whilst new measures are introduced to combat the spread of the pandemic this week and the Chancellor announces further attempts to assist in retaining staff, news has arrived about the Braemar Finance House’s decision to remove themselves from providing Patient Treatment Finance to Optical and Dental patients.

The decision was made public to their existing clientele identified with a closure date of October 30th 2020.

In the communication from the MD, Aileen Boyle confirmed, “Practices will still be able to make new instore/online patient applications up to and including the 9 October 2020.”
However she said, “It is important that should you still wish to offer finance options to your patients beyond this date, that you start work now on choosing an alternative patient finance provider and make that transition to avoid any interruption to the services you offer”

In these difficult times, with the possibility of many of our patients seeking help to service the payments for eyewear for themselves and family this is one weapon in our armoury that will become more prevalent in the future.

So, the news is not good for many who have found Patient Treatment Plans beneficial in assisting business prosper. Optical retailing is sure to follow the examples of Dentistry and Veterinary services who rely on these schemes to build extra business.

PHN has been investigating the market availability.

Key across all the aforementioned services is Snowbird Finance who are major players in Patient Treatment Finance and who also have been able to supply throughout the pandemic critical equipment and refurbishment finance, confirm they are in a position to fill the gap for patient treatment finance.

We have asked Snowbird to assist in our writing a briefing paper on the current situation of stretched cash-flows in companies and sole traderships and the vital considerations to be made about short and long term loans as well as considerations that might affect the reclaims that might be restricted on Purchase VAT.
This will be forthcoming in early October.

Snowbird Finance are long term supporters of your free Opchat News and supporting Knowledge Briefing Sections. Visit their page and links

Point of Sale Innovation by INVU

September 2020


FMO Logo

Tools such as lens testers and glare demonstrators are widely used by optical retailers to demonstrate the unique benefits of polarized sunglasses.

For the season 2020/2021 INVU by Swiss Eyewear Group is taking these tools to the next level.

The latest polarizing LCD technology is seamlessly integrated into a 3 unit display that features the products and the unique experience of INVU’s ultra polarized lens technology in one display.

To draw the consumer’s attention to the display a magnetic polarized frame is mounted in front of the LCD screen that continuously showcases the magic of polarization.

This new display innovation has been designed as a true “silent salesmen” to increase consumer awareness about the advantages of polarized lenses and to boost the optician’s sales in this highly lucrative category.

The new INVU magic display is available for shipping to retailers as of December 2020.

Boost for FMO current members by refund of subscriptions

August 2020

FMO Logo

Today the FMO Board announced a 50% or 100% refund of all of their members 2020 subscriptions.

With the recent sale of Optrafair to Media 10 combined with the COVID-19 pandemic the FMO Board feel it is a time to give back to it’s members and so have confirmed that all members will be eligible for a refund of at least half of their 2020 subscription.

The refund has been deliberately geared to favour the smaller and potentially more vulnerable members and is part of the new strategy of bringing new and exciting benefits to the membership.

FMO Logo FMO Chair Stuart Burn said ‘I am absolutely delighted we have made this announcement. It’s is an incredibly challenging time for all optical suppliers in the UK and for the FMO to provide direct and tangible support to our loyal members is a measure the progress the FMO has made in recent times. A trade organisation such as ours should be there to support members in times of need and I can think of no better way than this.’

He added ‘The Board are now focussed on creating new and rewarding benefits that will help grow membership and bring a fresh sense of community and support for UK optical suppliers.’

Andy Hepworth, FMO Vice-Chair added ‘Given the enormous impact the current Coronavirus pandemic has had upon all our lives, it is nice to know the FMO have recognised this & put in place a tangible reimbursement to all members. I am personally looking forward to supporting the FMO in delivering tangible benefits our members can enjoy.’

All FMO members have been contacted to start the reimbursement process.

Bayfields expands with three new acquisitions

August 2020

BGF-backed Bayfields Opticians and Audiologists has completed three acquisitions as the business continues with its UK-wide expansion.

The Yorkshire-headquartered business welcomes Gohil and Grey in Leamington Spa, Pendleburys in Maidstone, and Cooper & Leatherbarrow in Barnard Castle to the Bayfields family in its first three deals since lockdown. Bayfields started as a single site in 2004 and now employs more than 170 people across 20 sites.

Royston BayfieldBGF, the UK and Ireland’s most active investor in growing businesses, invested in Bayfields earlier this year to help support and accelerate ambitions to double the number of sites over the next four years.

Royston Bayfield, founder and CEO of Bayfields Opticians and Audiologists, commented: “These three deals are significant in our overall expansion plans. Gohil and Grey expands our existing presence in Leamington Spa and following refurbishments, we now have a four test room site, which will be open for testing 7 days a week and we will be introducing audiology in October. Pendleburys will grow our reach into the South East by adding this high footfall, large site and 12 employees who we’re looking forward to welcoming to the team. Our Barnard Castle acquisition will be integrated into our existing practice there and we look forward to continuing to build on our local reputation.

“We have a proven track record in adding value to clients through our obsessive commitment to care, technology and quality product offering.”

In the last 15 years, the Bayfields group has grown exceptionally well by focusing on local relationships with clients and providing high-quality expertise from optometry and audiology specialists. The business now has its sights set on reaching 40 UK sites which will bring the benefits of national scale to clients while retaining its core values and commitment to local communities.

Vivek Gohil, vendor of Gohil and Grey Opticians, said: “After a couple of discussions with the CEO of Bayfields, Royston Bayfield, it was very clear that we knew we had found the right purchasers.

“We were looking for a quick purchase and simple due diligence because we had emigrated to Australia. The timeframe from engaging lawyers to completion was one month. It was very efficient process in the time of the due diligence with nothing unexpected. We have very high regard for how professional and efficient Bayfields were in the whole process and would recommend them to others looking to sell their practice.”

Rebecca Lewis, vendor of Pendleburys added: “After 23 years of running the business it was the right time to hand it over to someone who has the same passion in optics but could lead the business through its next stage of growth. This gives me the opportunity to focus on working with clients to give excellent professional care and also allow me time to further my qualifications in optometry. I am proud to now be part of the Bayfields family.”

Chris Boyes, an investor at BGF, commented: “Buy and build was a key part of the expansion plan for Bayfields, and despite an uncertain environment, it is very encouraging to see the first three acquisitions since BGF partnered with the business being completed. We look forward to further expansion in the coming months.”

B & L to segment eye business

August 2020

Bausch Health Companies announced Thursday that it intends to spin off its eye health business from its core pharmaceutical business into an independent publicly traded entity called Bausch + Lomb – NewCo.

The spinoff will establish two separate companies—Bausch + Lomb- NewCo, a fully integrated, pure play eye-health company; and Bausch Health, a diversified pharmaceutical company with positions in gastroenterology, aesthetics/dermatology, neurology and international pharmaceuticals.

Bausch Health stated that move will unlock unrecognized value in Bausch Health shares and give each business greater flexibility to pursue strategic opportunities.

“We are committed to taking action to unlock what we see as unrecognized value in Bausch Health shares, and we believe that separating our business into two highly focused, stand-alone companies is the way to accomplish that goal,” Joseph C. Papa, chairman and CEO of Bausch Health, said in a company news release.

The eye-care business is returning to being a separate company, as it was before Valeant Pharmaceuticals acquired Bausch & Lomb for $8.7 billion in 2013.

“Four years ago, we initiated a multi-phase plan, first to stabilize and then to transform Bausch Health into a company positioned to deliver long-term organic growth. We have divested approximately $4 billion of non-core assets, paid down over $8 billion of debt, resolved numerous legacy legal issues and managed a loss of exclusivity on an approximately $1.4 billion product portfolio, while also investing in R&D, new product launches­­ and core franchises with attractive growth opportunities,”

Mr. Papa said. “Our Board of Directors and management team have been working on alternatives over the last 12 months to determine how to best unlock value across our businesses, and we believe that the time is right to begin the separation process, so each business has greater flexibility to pursue strategic opportunities in their respective markets.”

Bausch + Lomb – NewCo, which will consist of Bausch Health’s global vision care, surgical, consumer and ophthalmic Rx businesses, would have had 2019 revenue of approximately $3.7 billion and a CAGR of 4.1% (2017-2019). Bausch Health, which would have had 2019 revenue of approximately $4.9 billion and CAGR of 1.8% (2017-2019), will comprise a diversified portfolio of leading durable brands across the Salix, International Rx, Solta, neurology and medical dermatology businesses.

The timing of the anticipated spinoff will be tied to certain conditions and approvals, and the company’s completion of several actions, including the reorganization of the reporting segments, which the company expects to begin reporting in the first quarter of 2021.

The GLBL EYEWEAR Group sign leading specialist eyewear brand ZooBug

August 2020

The GLBL EYEWEAR Group are proud to announce a long-term global licensing agreement with the world leading specialist children’s eyewear brand ZooBug.

GLBL Logo The award-winning brand ZooBug has premiered at London’s Premier Global Kids Fashion Week, Mini Mode, showcased at top eyewear trade shows such as the SILMO trade fair in Paris; winning awards for their frames, and been the FIRST children’s brand to collab with London kids’ fashion expert and stylist, Kate Hill on a limited edition sunglasses range called ‘Las Estrellas!’

Zoobug K18

Group Chairman of The GLBL EYEWEAR Group – Didier Coton, said ‘Having worn glasses since the age of 3, I am very aware of the importance in having high quality eyewear. ZooBug is an incredible award winning children’s brand. Both Jonathan Van Blerk and I, as well as the whole GLBL team are very excited to work in partnership with ZooBug founder and renowned Ophthalmologist, Dr Julie Diem Le. "

"Our mission is not only to create high optical quality, stylish and fun frames to wear but also to make them affordable, since eyewear is a medical necessity as well as a fashion accessory. We want the young up and coming generation to feel comfortable and special.’

Founder of ZooBug, renowned Ophthalmologist – Dr Julie Diem Le: ‘I’m absolutely delighted that we have at last found a kindred spirit to represent ZooBug on a global platform. "

"When I started the brand 15 years ago I dreamt of a day when children across the world would be able to protect their eyes with beautiful, well-fitting frames of adult-quality, not a scaled down mini me version but one that is designed specifically for their needs to allow them to look good and feel amazing. GLBL are passionate, committed partners who I believe will help bring that vision closer to reality and I am so excited by that prospect.’

The GLBL EYEWEAR Group are preparing to launch new collections for ZooBug as well as the much anticipated KATEHILLXZOOBUG ‘Las Estrellas’ exclusive within the next few months following the delay with COVID-19.


August 2020

The published video addresses Digital Visual Stress Disorder among Children and youngsters

Lookkino Video
As always attentive to the needs of the youngest consumers and their parents, LOOK-made in Italia is launching “Operation Vision Checkup”, an awareness campaign about digital visual stress disorder. The company is aiming the campaign at opticians, supplying them with simple yet efficient instruments to promote eye testing in children and youngsters. It kicked off at the end July in Italy and will then be rolled out abroad over the following months.

Digital visual stress disorder is caused by an excessive exposure to tablets, smartphones, TVs and PCs. Over the last few months the COVID-19 emergency has forced many people to stay at home which has inevitably brought about an increase in the use of electronic devices, especially in the school-age age group due to remote learning.

The obligation to stay at home has also suddenly changed our visual habits: within our own four walls we have become accustomed to looking “up close” and increasingly less “far away”. When not enough time is dedicated to distance vision, the eyes do not have many opportunities to rest and gradually lose the ability to pass from one type of vision to another.

The company – which with its own brand LOOKKINO accompanies children and youngsters from 0-14 with a product specifically studied and designed to meet the needs of the various stages of growth - has therefore created an educational video and information packs to give to opticians who can then communicate the information to the end consumer via social media.

Watch the video:

Non-UK optometrists and opticians eligible for Health and Care Visa

July 2020

This week the Government launched a new Health and Care Visa so that UK health and care services can recruit qualified healthcare professionals from aboard.

At this stage optometrists and opticians are on the list of eligible professions.

The new visa system is expected to cost less and speed up the application process for eligible professionals that wish to work in the UK from 1 January 2021.

Overseas healthcare workers will also now be exempt from the Immigration Health Surcharge.

As Positive Data comes from AstraZeneca, Oxford Coronavirus Vaccine source, UK Governemnet confirms securement of 100 million doses

July 2020

Reports emerged that positive news will be released soon on AstraZeneca’s experimental COVID-19 vaccine that it is working on with the University of Oxford. The Lancet has also confirmed that data from a phase 1 trial of AZD1222, formerly known as ChAdOx1 nCoV-19, will be published in the medical journal on July 20.

A political editor for the ITV news outlet in the UK, citing an unnamed source, indicated that “positive news” on initial trials of the vaccine could be announced as soon as July 16. Meanwhile, a report in The Telegraph quoted a source as saying results from phase 1 clinical trials are “extremely promising,” while another close to the research team touted the vaccine’s ability to mount a “double defense” against COVID-19.

T-cell and antibody responses

“I can tell you that we now know the Oxford vaccine covers both bases – it produces both a T-cell and an antibody response,” one source is quoted as saying in The Telegraph. “It’s the combination of these two that will hopefully keep people safe…So far, so good. It’s an important moment, but we still have a long way to go,” the source added. According to The Telegraph, the initial data also suggest the AZD1222 vaccine is safe with no major side effects. The research team is also evaluating the level of dose needed to produce an effective response.

The reports come a day after an interim analysis showed Moderna’s experimental coronavirus vaccine mRNA-1273 induced anti–SARS-CoV-2 immune responses in all 45 study participants. The findings, which were published this week in the NEJM, indicated that a two-dose vaccination schedule of mRNA-1273 elicited “robust” neutralising antibody titers, and also induced Th1-biased CD4 T-cell responses.

In addition, Moderna’s vaccine candidate was found to be generally safe, with the study authors saying there were “no trial-limiting safety concerns.” After the second vaccination, side effects that occurred in more than half the participants included fatigue, chills, headache and myalgia, as well as pain at the injection site.

Meanwhile, Oxford has already started recruiting for Phase 2/3 testing of AZD1222 in around 10,000 adults. AstraZeneca has also recently reached deals with the US, UK and other countries in Europe to produce hundreds of millions of doses of the vaccine, potentially as early as October.

Today it was announced that the UK Government has also bought a further 90 million doses from BioNTech, Pfizer and


Novartis to Provide 15 Drugs at Zero-Profit for Treating COVID-19 Symptoms

July 2020

Novartis has recently announced that 15 generic and over-the-counter medicines from its Sandoz unit will be made available at zero-profit to treat the major symptoms of COVID-19 in low-income and lower-middle-income countries.

The drugs include those to treat gastro-intestinal illness, acute respiratory symptoms, pneumonia as well as septic shock.

“This initiative builds on our earlier global commitment to keep prices stable for a basket of essential drugs used to treating COVID-19 patients,” remarked Sandoz CEO Richard Saynor.

The medicines included in the portfolio are amoxicillin, ceftriaxone, clarithromycin, colchicine, dexamethasone, dobutamine, fluconazole, heparin, levofloxacin, loperamide, pantoprazole, prednisone, prednisolone, salbutamol and vancomycin.

Under the latest initiative, the portfolio of 15 drugs will be available to governments in up to 79 eligible countries during the pandemic and until a vaccine or curative treatment is available. Novartis explained that the medicines were chosen based on clinical relevance and availability to ensure global demand can be met.

Confirmation from Mr Frank Norville OBE: The Miracle has happened

July 2020

INSPECS PLC has acquired all aspects of the Norville Rx Group.

We are now beginning the process of bringing the prescription service up to speed.

Meanwhile our brilliant team July volunteers are continuing to process Rx orders at all locations.

Norville Optical Labs appear to have been saved after a £2.4m buyout from Inspecs.

July 2020

Inspecs Bath-based Inspecs has bought the freehold for the Noville factory in Gloucester, the remainder of the stock and various contracts as part of the deal which was confirmed yesterday morning.

The company has said it intends to keep part of Norville's current management team and employees.

Last week staff from from Norville Optical, who entered administration on July 3, were racing against the clock to raise £850,000 in funds from the Gloucestershire community.

Norville Optical covers their laboratories and Gloucester factory in Magdala Road, which has been making lenses and glasses in the city for more than 150 years.

Robin Totterman, CEO of Inspecs, welcomed the deal. In a statement he said “With Savile Row (Algha) and Norville, we have combined the two oldest and most respected British optical
brands – frame-maker with lens-maker.”

“We are also taking this opportunity to integrate our two UK manufacturing sites, and soon we will offer a bespoke Savile Row lens collection to accompany the frames.

“Our plan is to similarly offer our many licensed brands with high quality bespoke lens packages,” he added.

“We look forward to welcoming the Norville team into the heart of the Inspecs Group and working together to create a truly cutting-edge integrated eyewear business,”

It was only this February that Inpecs gained admission to the AIM Market. Inspecs, which owns the factory where John Lennon's famous round glasses were made, has a Bath-based designer eyewear manufacturer and distributor was floated on the AIM market of the London Stock Exchange.

Inspecs, which owns the factory where John Lennon's famous round glasses were made, Algha Works in E London. successfully raised £23.5million in its initial public offering (IPO).

The company had placed more than 12 million new ordinary shares with institutional and other investors at a price of 195p.

Corporate brokers Peel Hunt also placed 36 million existing shares on behalf of selling shareholders at the placing price, raising gross proceeds of £70.5million.

Robin Totterman, chief executive of Inspecs said: “Our admission to AIM represents a landmark moment for Inspecs.

This is obviously their first ambitious purchase following the IPO.

The retail division Norville Opticians' which has nine practices and shops across the South West including the historic Eastgate Street site in Gloucester have already been sold to the Hakim Group as reported earlier

Practice Building boosts the VCHP

July 2020

Practice Building – the support agency for optical businesses – has provided funds for 55 homeless people to gain an eye examination and specs, thanks to their lockdown marketing initiative.

Information packs and marketing material – including a short video – for practices to use in engagement with patients were sold at £59 with all of the proceeds going to the charity.

Andy Clarke, Director of Practice Building, explained, "We did a lot of work during lockdown with our one2one campaign in helping practices to reassure their patients about the safety of coming back into the practice. With the strapline ‘Give your Eyes some Quality Time’ we helped practices to reach thousands of patients, particularly online and via social media. We decided to donate the money generated to a UK charity and had come across Vision Care for Homeless People at the Optix conference. It certainly seemed the right charity for us to support at this time.”

FMO and Media 10 join forces to deliver one major UK industry show following the cancellation of Optrafair 2020

July 2020

Media 10, organisers of 100% Optical, and the Federation of Manufacturing Opticians have reached an agreement that brings the main optical bodies and the industry together in one major event for 2021 onwards.

100% Optical In addition to this agreement, the FMO, together with show organiser MA Exhibitions, a member of the Mark Allen Group, have made the difficult decision to cancel Optrafair 2020, which was due to take place at the NEC between 19-21 September 2020. This action was taken due to the continued uncertainty surrounding delivery of events as a result of Covid-19.

The joining of forces between FMO and Media 10, as well as the cancellation of Optrafair 2020, provides the industry with much-needed security and clarity. The industry can now be assured there is one major annual exhibition, 100% Optical at London’s ExCeL exhibition centre, which now has full industry support from the FMO and other major optical bodies.

The agreement reached between Media 10 and the FMO sees the Optrafair brand transition to Media 10 ownership from 2021. That means that optical suppliers will be able to plan with certainty and put their event marketing plans into place to support one event in January 2021. The long-term commercial agreement will allow the FMO the space, time and resources to increase support for its members. The FMO and Media 10 look forward to consulting with members over the coming months.

Over the last 7 years, 100% Optical has consistently grown attendance figures, and independent research illustrates that London ExCeL in late January is a winning combination for exhibitors and delegates.

Nathan Garnett, Event Director for 100% Optical said “We are living through uncertain times. Whilst this agreement would have been reached without the current pandemic, it's importance now is magnified as the optical industry needs solidarity at this time. With the FMO’s full backing of 100% Optical, coupled with that of the AOP and ABDO, I can see huge potential for us to take 100% Optical forwards, grow our attendance levels, increase the diversity of our content, and make it an even more unmissable date in the UK and International Optical calendar.”

Optrafair 20/20 Cancelled
Stuart Burn, Chairman of the FMO Commented: “We are delighted with the outcome of this agreement that will allow FMO members to concentrate on one major exhibition, which will be fantastic for all of us. I am looking forward to working with Media 10, and believe this partnership will provide both tangible benefits and cost savings to our members and other exhibitors. Now more than ever we can come together as an industry at 100% Optical and tackle the key issues facing optics today.”

Matt Govett, Managing Director of MA Exhibitions adds: “In addition to the Optrafair brand transitioning across to Media 10, and in light of the current circumstances around the viability of events due to the pandemic, MA Exhibitions and the FMO reluctantly made the decision to cancel Optrafair 2020 which was due to take place in September at the NEC. We fully support the move between Media 10 and the FMO to create one new event to support the sector from 2021 onwards.. We wish Media 10 and the FMO well in their new endeavours.”

Henrietta Alderman, Chief Executive of the Association of Optometrists said "As the official partner to the show, the AOP are pleased that the optical bodies representing the different constituent parts of this industry can come together at 100% Optical in 2021. The sector as a whole will benefit from this new collaboration and together we will continue to lead the profession through a changing landscape”.

Sir Anthony Garrett CBE HonFBDO said, "ABDO has had a long and happy association with Optrafair and therefore there is some understandable sadness that it will not continue. However, it is very good news for the whole sector that there will be just one show each year which we can all fully support. We look forward to a successful working arrangement with 100% Optical for many years to come and a show that is able to grow and develop."

Media 10, ExCeL London and the local health authorities are currently working on ways to ensure 100% Optical 2021 will be COVID safe, with adherence to all the latest government guidelines on running safe trade exhibitions. All those involved want to put delegates minds at rest that every measure will be taken to ensure the event will be a safe environment for exhibitors and visitors.

FMO agrees handover deal for Optrafair to the Media 10 owned 100% Optical.

Optrafair 20/20 Cancelled Breaking news released today after a 3 day embargo on news from the FMO is that due to the Covid Pandemic the hoped for Optrafair 20/20 exhibition delayed from April to September this year has been cancelled.

Following this cancellation it has been decided by the FMO Board that the organisation and running of future optical exhibitions will be controlled by Media 10 and include Optrafair.
To many who have been involved in the organisation and running of Optrafair over 70 years this will come as a blow.

Howver in essence it is a pragmatic move that after the dust has settled will be welcomed by many, especially manufacturers and distributors who have been footing the bill for 2 shows each year compared to year’s ago when Optrafair was biannual.

Two shows a year with only 4 months between them was a vanity project for both parties.

Media 10 have the marketing and media knowhow that has been exhibited over the last 6 years, which up to this year PHN has played a significant part in its PR and marketing. Media 10 still appear to be holding their January 2021 date despite the Covid qualms, however maybe this is an opportunity to reschedule and take the prime spot that has been in April for many years by Optrafair.

Stuart Burn The time and expense involved in producing Optrafair has been a drain on the important challenges that the FMO have in helping their members in a tough environment.
As Stuart Burns the current FMO Chairman stated, “ This will free the FMO to focus more on its members, play a more significant role in Optics UK which in turn will help industry regain ground after the pandemic.”

The FMO has made a significant difference during the pandemic by working with all the Optical Industry, members and non-members alike in providing information on who remained active. They worked closely with PHN in providing and upkeeping the lists and contact details of such companies.

This is just one example of how freeing up resources at the FMO will encourage others to join who have enjoyed this assistance.

So its the end of an era but not the end of the world and this agreement to consolidate has the opportunity to bring a much brighter and combined industry meeting place.

Who knows all sectors including that of Contact Lens Distribution might finally be tempted to be under one roof.

The “New Normal” might in this case be the better “Normal”.

FMO statement on The Norville Group

July 2020

The FMO are very saddened to hear the Norville Group have been placed in administration. However, we are hopeful that both the retail division and laboratory division will both be able to rise again in some form.

The Norville Group - and Frank Norville OBE in particular - have provided an immeasurable amount to UK optics over several decades. Coronavirus has already had a devastating effect on UK PLC and this is another demonstration of the cruel nature of this pandemic.

FMO Chairman Stuart Burn said ‘As a former Chairman and Honorary Lifelong Member of the FMO, Frank’s wisdom, integrity and expertise has often been called upon not just by the FMO, but by the wider optical community and we hope this will continue to be the case in the months and years to come.’

FMO Vice Chairman Andy Hepworth said. ‘It feels a sad day for the Optical Industry to have lost such a foundation. I hope beyond these turbulent times the FMO will stay in close contact with Frank; thanks and stay well Frank!’.

Members of staff at Norvilles Gloucester start Go Fund Me listing to try to regain control from Administrators

July 2020

The Go Fund Me page found here states:

Please help Norvilles a Gloucestershire spectacles company that has traded over 110 years with 150 staff to remain in business.

Your financial contribution would work out as a financial share of the business for you. Making you a share holder of the Norville business.

The combined money raised on ‘Go Fund Me’ will allow us to make a financial settlement offer of purchase to the administrators.

Norvilles specialise in baby lenses, epilepsy lenses as well as surgical lenses for cancer consultants to operate. Norvilles supply the majority of NHS lenses.

Please help keep this Gloucestershire Business alive.

Sharon Edwards was the senior account manager for The Norville Group , and has been with the company for 28 years and was sadly made redundant on 3rd July , due to the Norville group going into administration. She says, "Mr Frank Norville is an inspiration to all in the optical industry across the world and has dedicated his life to optics.
We have amazing staff who have also dedicated their lives to The Norville Group.

"We are trying to save this local family run business and all it’s hardworking staff. Norville produce bespoke products that cannot be produced anywhere else, from tiny babies , products that have helped with epilepsy patients and recently during Covid supplying emergency NHS staff and a cancer doctor an insert to fit behind his PPE mask during surgery.

We are Trying to save the company by looking to set up a crowd-funding page for people to help save the Norville Group and it’s staff. Norville optical has been in manufacturing for approximately 60 years supplying glasses for the Queen and many others.

The Optical industry will now have a big gap in the market which will unfortunately affect those with the most vulnerable eye site."

Opchat Comment

Anyone who has been following this story on Linkedin and Social Media will know the strength of feeling emanating from the entire vision industry in support of the company and of Mr Frank Norville who has given his life over to UK Optics.

It is not surprising to read the accolades on Norville's quality of work but the many comments that included "Norville was always my Go To when i needed help, advice and the supply of very complicated lenses confirms that sometimes a company like Norville can suffer from doing everyone else's complicated work allowing competitors to pick up the simple jobs with far higher profit values.

If there is anyone out there who feels that they were favoured with such great value on complex lenses maybe it is time to repay a little and thank Norville work staff for their commitment and hopefully give them a lifeline.

The Go Fund Me page found here

The Norville Group, a British Optical Institution falls into Administration.

Juky 2020

Frank Norville OBE
At PHN we had every digit crossed over the last 2 weeks for the continuance of the Norville Group, but over the weekend came the news to us; from Mr. Frank Norville OBE, a personal friend of the editor and of course one of the most highly respected manufacturers and much more in Optics, that the Group had passed into administration.
In a saddening note sent to us as well as his many loyal customers Frank wrote,

“I write with great sadness to advise the Norville group has fallen into administration after 70 years of trading. At 1.00pm July 3rd the administrators made all staff redundant with instructions to leave. Stoically 25 of our brilliant colleagues have volunteered to come back in so as to work through the Rx work in progress being a first priority. Subsequently I will provide you with more detail but just now a collapsing wall of uncertainty faces all of us here so please excuse the briefness of this communication. “

Frank has always been open about his company’s pressure over pension difficulties and he is not alone amongst other long serving businesses that put in place generous pension schemes as advised many years ago only to see the capital gradually eroded by continuing changes in pension and investment law.

The Norville group is by no means the first and nor will it be the last to suffer from the draconian measures of the pension regulator. But the question remains: Why put a profitable company out of business?

The stories of sympathy from across the country poured in on social media from friends, businesses, and competitors alike. The Norville lens catalogue and the wisdom within it on lens choice became the oracle in Optical Practice. Everyone remembers getting their first Norville frame ruler, trying to work out what to do with the swimming athlete with myopia and understanding the complexities of UV-C and tint choices. If you had a complicated job, Norville probably got it!

These are what made Norville special and Mr Frank as he was known on the laboratory floor was the person that created that specialism.

The many years that Mr Frank has been in optics has seen him provide a steer nationally and internationally. He played such a pivotal role in some of the legislation that was coming in waves from Europe in the form of MDA legislation, frame materials as well as British Standards that with his leadership of the FMO and his calm manner allowed him to mediate much of the affects that business might have bourne.

Its seems ironic that it was effectively government meddling that finally was the final nail.

We can think of no other Chairman of a company who was admired by all as was Mr Frank, and to his location he was also Mr Gloucester, but to us he was undoubtedly Mr Optics.

Frank is down but not out, and we are sure that there will be other advisory roles in Optics where his knowledge will prove invaluable in the future and we look forward to seeing those smiling eyes once again.

4D pharma: phase II study of MRx-4DP0004 in patients hospitalised with COVID-19 open for enrolment

July 2020

Dosing of first patients expected to commence shortly

4D pharma plc (AIM: DDDD), a pharmaceutical company leading the development of Live Biotherapeutics, today announces that its Phase II clinical trial of oral immunomodulator MRx-4DP0004 for patients hospitalised with COVID-19 is now open to enrolment, and dosing of the first patients is expected shortly.

The Phase II randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial is enrolling up to 90 patients admitted to hospital with COVID-19 in the UK. Eligible patients will receive daily oral MRx-4DP0004 or placebo, in addition to standard supportive care. The primary endpoint of the trial is the mean change in clinical status score as measured by the WHO Ordinal Scale for Clinical Improvement. In addition, a number of secondary endpoints assess measures of clinical efficacy including the need for, and duration of, ventilation, in addition to safety and tolerability.

4D pharma’s Live Biotherapeutic MRx-4DP0004 has shown the potential to simultaneously down-regulate specific pathological aspects of the hyper-inflammatory response to viral infection, while maintaining the appropriate anti-viral response. Both are key factors in the effective treatment of the respiratory symptoms associated with COVID-19, not only for hospitalised patients with more severe disease but potentially also in patients with milder symptoms to prevent disease progression and hospitalisation.

As a Live Biotherapeutic, MRx-4DP0004 is expected to display a favourable safety profile. In an ongoing asthma study MRx-4DP0004 has demonstrated an excellent safety profile to date. Particularly in the context of the COVID-19 crisis, the safety of this Live Biotherapeutic is critical, in contrast to the known side-effect profiles of other therapies in clinical trials for COVID-19.

“Reducing hyperinflammation, particularly in the lungs, is key to preventing the exacerbation of symptoms associated with more severe COVID-19. 4D pharma has shown MRx-4DP0004 has the ability to target inflammation in the lungs, potentially reducing the respiratory issues central to COVID-19,” said Dr. Alex Stevenson, Chief Scientific Officer, 4D pharma. “4D pharma aims to use this study to generate robust, meaningful clinical data that will support a safe immunomodulatory Live Biotherapeutic intervention for patients hospitalised with COVID-19.”

He added, “Immunomodulatory intervention in COVID-19 is supported by recent positive results from the UK’s RECOVERY trial, showing dexamethasone reduces the risk of death in hospitalised patients. We believe MRx-4DP0004 has a mechanism of action that may be complementary to that of dexamethasone, which has now become standard-of-care across the UK’s National Health Service (NHS). Importantly, in our ongoing asthma study the addition of MRx-4DP0004 to glucocorticoid treatments (the same class of medicines as dexamethasone) has to date been safe and well tolerated, positioning MRx-4DP0004 to be able to progress rapidly in this new standard-of-care setting. 4D pharma intends to develop MRx-4DP0004 to prevent hospitalised COVID-19 patients deteriorating to the point of needing invasive ventilation and intensive care, and thus alleviate the greatest burdens facing healthcare services. Following positive data from the COVID-19 clinical trial, 4D pharma intends to explore the potential utility of MRx-4DP0004 in additional viral infections like influenza.”

About MRx-4DP0004

MRx-4DP0004 is a single-strain Live Biotherapeutic in development for the treatment of asthma and COVID-19. It has demonstrated strong and significant efficacy in industry standard preclinical models of steroid-resistant severe asthma. MRx-4DP0004 was shown to reduce both neutrophils and eosinophils in prophylactic and therapeutic settings in vivo. The efficacy was also reflected in a reduction in histopathological lung inflammation, and specific subsets of T cells, dendritic cells and inflammatory cytokines.

4D is currently investigating MRx-4DP0004 in a Phase I/II study in patients with partly-controlled asthma. The study, taking place at sites across the UK, is evaluating the safety and preliminary clinical efficacy of MRx-4DP0004 in addition to standard maintenance therapy such as inhaled corticosteroids (ICS) and long acting beta agonists (LABA), in up to 90 patients.

For more information about the clinical study please visit

Jobs saved as family retail firm is sold after 100 years of serving the West.

July 2020

Norville Original Practice The 'majority of jobs' at Norville Opticians, the retail division of The Norville Group, have been safeguarded after the group of practices was saved from administration.

Norville Opticians, which was founded in 1898 and has practices in Cheltenham, Gloucester, Bishops Cleeve, Dursley, Wotton-under-Edge and Stonehouse, has been run most recently by chairman Frank Norville.

Pre-takeover it had an estimated 50 staff.

According to its new owners, Hakim Group, the impact of Covid-19 meant that “the business needed significant investment which has been provided through the sale, and almost all jobs have been secured”.

The Norville Group, the manufacturing laboratory is a separate business and is not included in the sale.

This is still being operated by the Norville Group, which is headquartered at Service House, Magdala Rd.

All the optical practices will retain the Norville Opticians name above the door and continue to serve their local communities.

Adrian Street, director at Norville Opticians, said: “With so many jobs at risk in the current climate, our number-one priority throughout this period has been to make sure the livelihoods of our people were safeguarded.

“We are delighted that our patients can continue to receive the same level of care that our teams are proud to deliver every day.

“All of us at Norville Opticians are excited for the journey ahead in the next chapter of our history which is already over a century old.”

Luke Wren, head of business development at the Hakim Group, said: “We are very happy to welcome Norville Opticians into the HG family of independent practices.

“Frank Norville, Adrian and their teams have built up a dedicated patient base through a commitment to delivering a first-class service putting the customer at the heart of their proposition.
“With jobs secured, the practice teams can continue to do what they do best - providing their communities with the eyecare they need, when they need it.”

Hakim Group has confirmed a full investment and transformation programme has been planned, which includes shared ownership opportunities for some of the existing employees.

BGF focuses on Bayfields Opticians with new investment

June 2020

BGF, the UK and Ireland’s most active investor in growing businesses, has invested in Bayfields Opticians and Audiologists.

BGF’s investment will be used to support the independent opticians and audiologists group’s organic growth – including further roll-out of its audiology services – as well as its acquisition strategy to double the number of sites over the next four years.

Royston BayfieldRoyston Bayfield, founder and CEO of Bayfields Opticians and Audiologists, commented: “In the last 15 years, the Bayfields group has grown exceptionally well, whilst keeping front of mind our values, our local relationships with clients and our high-quality expertise through our expanding team of optometry and audiology specialists.

“The deal completed in March before lockdown, but our values are more important than ever in the current climate. We have been working extremely hard to create cutting-edge and unique client consultation processes to guarantee that healthcare appointments are COVID-19 secure, bringing together absolute safety without compromising service. As such, we have introduced BaySafe, our propriety brand, that signifies clinical excellence. This offers clients the confidence to manage and deal with eye strain, head pain, or less than perfect hearing in a safe and caring environment.”

He added: “We are delighted to be welcoming BGF to the Bayfields family as our long-term investment partner. The team has great sector expertise and a real understanding of our vision for the business, which will be invaluable as we enter this next stage of growth.”

Bayfields’ team of highly-trained optometrists offer eye exams and a wide range of high-quality designer glasses and contact lenses to clients across the UK. More recently, Bayfields has diversified its offering by introducing audiology services and hearing aids to its rapidly growing client base.

It has also set up The Beyond Bayfields Charity, supporting the education of trainee optometrists in Sierra Leone and working with local schools in the UK to educate pupils on the importance of vision and eye testing.

Chris Boyes, an investor at BGF, commented: “We first met Royston and the team in 2015 and have since seen them expand the Bayfields brand impressively, developing a market-leading offering through investment in technology, expansion of its product ranges and a commitment to the highest quality of care for its growing customer base.

“We are excited to be joining the business. The market for growth through acquisitions in this sector is significant, and with a proven management team and strong central platform, Bayfields is in a strong position to capitalise on growth opportunities in the future.”

Founded at a single site in 2004 by optometrist Royston Bayfield, the business has since grown to 19 practices – including sites in County Durham, Lancashire, Hampshire, Surrey and Yorkshire – with 13 sites acquired within the last four years alone.

The group currently employs more than 160 staff across the UK, including 70 specialists, and has revenues of £12m.

Paul Herriott, Corporate Finance Director at DSW, which advised the company on the transaction, commented: “We have admired Bayfields’ customer proposition and growth ambitions over recent years and are delighted to have advised Royston and the team on securing this important investment. The partnership between Bayfields and BGF will undoubtedly support the business to achieve even greater success in this very specialist and evolving market.”

The investment was led for BGF by Chris Boyes and Mark Rigby. The advisors to the transaction were: Sandip Khroud, Gateleys Plc, for BGF; Paul Herriot and Roger Esler (DSW), and Marcus Armstrong (Shulmans), for Bayfields Opticians.

New Essilor Commercial Director

June 2020

Essilor Ltd has announced the appointment of Alan Pitcher as commercial director.

Alan Pitcher Essilor New Commercial Director June 2020Alan will drive ECP business solutions that challenge, inspire and ultimately deliver growth for independent opticians.

Alan has a strong background delivering growth in the health sector, after spending 15 years working with orthopaedic medical devices to improve patient care and provider profitability.

On his appointment, Alan said: “While I’m passionate about performance and excited about industrial innovation, my short-term focus will be on engaging with, understanding and helping ECPs navigate the new normal around Covid-19.

“Much will undoubtedly change in this industry in the coming years, but I’m driven to see lens volumes return to pre-crisis levels and see key brands return to monthly growth before year end.

“More than anything, that level of recovery would indicate a prosperous return to business for our ECP partners.”

In his former role, Alan counts his greatest accomplishment as driving forward the merits of surgical robotics. Not only was it sought by orthopaedic surgeons for their patients but also embraced by hospital management for its commercial impact.

He adds: “Building a true business partnership, where I completely understand the customers’ needs and in turn find an appropriate solution has always motivated me.”

Tim Precious, managing director at Essilor Ltd, said: “Alan is a solid addition to the team and will undoubtably drive the business forward and support ECP growth as part of our promise to be their best business partner.”

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