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Eye Drug Firm Cuts Sales Jobs, Names Chairman and Interim CEO

37 employees are leaving.

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NovaBay Pharmaceuticals Inc., a biopharmaceutical company focusing on commercializing prescription Avenova for the domestic eyecare market, announced that it is reducing its U.S. sales force and has made leadership changes.

It will go from 45 to 15 field sales representatives, according to a press release.

NovaBay said the cuts were part of “a strategic shift to deploy its sales representatives only in high-performing territories and territories it has identified as having significant prescription volume potential along with favorable health plan coverage to support Avenova per-unit revenue.”

The company said it would “continue to focus on contracting with additional specialty pharmacies as channel partners, which provide quality patient experiences at a negotiated price per prescription.”

In addition, NovaBay made the following personnel changes, all effective immediately:

  • Lead independent Director Paul E. Freiman, who joined the company’s board of directors in 2002, has been named chairman. Former Chairman Mark M. Sieczkarek will continue to serve as a director of the company.
  • Interim President and CEO, Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer Jack McGovern has resigned from the company.
  • Senior Vice President and General Counsel Justin Hall, who has been with the company since 2013, has assumed the positions of interim president and CEO. He will continue to serve as the company’s general counsel and corporate compliance officer.
  • Corporate Controller Jason Raleigh, who joined NovaBay in 2016, has assumed the positions of interim chief financial officer and treasurer.

“It is highly gratifying to have two qualified and seasoned professionals in Justin Hall and Jason Raleigh, both with NovaBay tenure, step into these key positions,” said Freiman. “We are highly appreciative of Mark Sieczkarek’s many contributions to our company as Chairman, in addition to his former roles as President and CEO. We are delighted that he will continue serving as a member of our Board.

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“We appreciate the support of our current major stockholders who have pledged additional financial resources as we execute on our strategy.”

“We affirm our assertion that Avenova is the best product available to topically treat chronic bacterial infections that affect approximately 85% of the dry eye market,” said Hall. “Given the current reimbursement environment, we are pursuing a cost-efficient growth strategy by only deploying high-performing sales representatives in our best-producing and highest potential prescription volume territories while securing additional relationships within the specialty pharmacy channel. We expect this new strategy to accelerate our path to profitability. We thank the 37 employees who are leaving NovaBay as of March 15, 2019, and look forward to implementing our new U.S. commercial strategy for Avenova.”

Since launching in 2014, INVISION has won 21 international journalism awards for its publication and website. Contact INVISION's editors at editor@invisionmag.com.

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Shopko Optical Acquisition Completed; 80 Stores to Become Freestanding Locations

The previous owner filed for bankruptcy.

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GREEN BAY, WI — Monarch Alternative Capital LP announced the completion of its previously announced acquisition of Shopko Optical.

The company expects to relocate nearly 80 of its current locations housed inside Shopko stores to freestanding locations, according to a press release. Shopko is a retail chain that recently announced plans to wind down its operations.

“We are excited to welcome Shopko Optical into our portfolio and to invest in the company’s growth as we move forward with our strategy,” said Andrew Herenstein, co-founder and managing principal of Monarch. “Monarch has a long, successful history of investing in great companies undergoing transitions and working alongside their leadership teams to build strong, vibrant businesses of the future.”

Jim Eisen, former president of Visionworks, is working as an operating partner with Monarch alongside the Shopko Optical team.

“I’m grateful for the opportunity to join the Shopko Optical team,” Eisen said. “We are committed to continuing to provide quality patient care and outstanding service that our affiliated doctors of optometry and opticians have provided for over 40 years. It is an exciting time to be part of the Shopko Optical family.”

Over the course of 2019, Shopko Optical expects to relocate approximately 80 stores, while continuing to serve patients and customers in their existing locations during the transition.

“As we move forward with our plans to operate 80 freestanding optical locations, we continue to be dedicated to our patients, doctors, opticians and the communities we serve,” said Russ Steinhorst, CEO of Shopko. “We encourage anyone with questions to please get in touch with our team. We appreciate the continued patronage of our patients and their understanding during what we hope to be a continued smooth transition.”

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FDA Approves Drug for Diabetic Eye Disease

About 8 million people live with diabetic retinopathy.

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TARRYTOWN, NY — Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. announced that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved Eylea Injection to treat all stages of diabetic retinopathy.

“Millions of people have been robbed of their vision due to the progression of diabetic retinopathy,” said Dr. David Brown, an investigator for the PANORAMA trial and director of research at Retina Consultants of Houston. “The prevention of worsening diabetic retinopathy with EYLEA provides a compelling rationale for early treatment of patients with this disease, particularly since eyes dosed with EYLEA as infrequently as every 16 weeks showed significant improvements in the pivotal PANORAMA trial.”

Approximately 8 million people live with diabetic retinopathy, a complication of diabetes characterized by damage to the blood vessels in the retina. The disease generally starts as non-proliferative diabetic retinopathy and often has no warning signs or symptoms.

Over time, non-proliferative diabetic retinopathy often progresses to proliferative diabetic retinopathy, a stage in which abnormal blood vessels grow on the surface of the retina and into the vitreous cavity, potentially causing severe vision loss.

“With today’s FDA approval, EYLEA has once again set a high bar for the treatment of diabetic eye diseases,” said Dr. George D. Yancopoulos, president and chief scientific officer at Regeneron.

“The PANORAMA trial showed that by one year 20% of untreated patients developed proliferative diabetic eye disease, and EYLEA reduced this risk by 85% to 88% when administered using an every 16-week or eight-week dosing regimen, respectively. In fact, 80% of patients who received the EYLEA eight-week dosing regimen had significant improvement in their diabetic retinopathy.”

Eylea (aflibercept) is the only vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) inhibitor approved with two dosing options for diabetic retinopathy, allowing doctors to customize treatment to patients’ needs, according to a press release.

In diabetic retinopathy, Eylea may be dosed every eight weeks following five initial monthly injections, or every four weeks.

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Longtime AOA Leader and Volunteer Dies at Age 62

She was a ‘dedicated, driven leader for the profession of optometry.’

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Beth Kneib, an optometrist who spent years as a leader and volunteer with the American Optometric Association, has died.

She was 62, AOA reports.

“Beth was a dedicated, driven leader for the profession of optometry. Beth was a passionate advocate for patients and for quality improvement in the field of optometry,” said AOA President Samuel D. Pierce, OD. “She will truly be missed by all her colleagues here at the AOA. Our heart goes out to her family.”

Beginning in 2011, Kneib held leadership roles in the following AOA initiatives and committees: Optometric Registry; Ophthalmic Standards; Ethics and Values; New Technology; Community Health Programs, including InfantSEE, Healthy Eyes Healthy People and VISION USA. Most recently, she served as director of the AOA Clinical Resources Group, including the AOA Council on Research, Health Promotions Committee, and development, management and production of the AOA’s monumental, evidence-based clinical practice guidelines.

“The guidelines were her passion and a core element of her professional work,” Andrew Morgenstern, OD, AOA consultant. “The clinical guidelines are not only a great legacy that Beth will live on by and leave behind, but also one of the greatest tools that doctors of optometry have to drive evidence-based clinical practice for the benefit of our patients for many years to come.”

Prior to her work with the AOA, Kneib served for more than 20 years on numerous committees for professional organizations and continued to promote educational initiatives for continuous quality improvement. She was a member of the Agency for Quality Alliance Steering Group, overseeing AQA activities, strategic planning and governance structure.

Kneib graduated from the Southern California College of Optometry and completed her residency in hospital-based ocular disease at the American Lake Veterans Administration Medical Center. She worked in hospital-based services, surgical co-management centers, surgical quality assurance, and directed professional relations programs for both privately and publicly owned companies. She developed and delivered training materials and programs for optometrists throughout the country and served as an adjunct faculty member to three optometric colleges and universities.

Kneib was a true trailblazer in the profession. In 1985, she was the first American Optometric Student Association female president leading the first AOSA all-women executive council.

“As a person so proud of and focused on her family, a skilled and accomplished doctor, a highly respected health industry executive, a longtime AOA volunteer and, of course, cherished staff leader, and an extraordinarily caring person, Beth touched, aided, healed and improved many, many lives,” said AOA Executive Director Jon Hymes. “Her resilience, great courage and undiminished sense of humor throughout the time of her illness will remain a testament to her admirable strength and powerful spirit.”

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