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Pharmaceutical Firm Launches Allergy Test Kit

April 05, 1985|BRUCE HOROVITZ | Times Staff Writer

NMS Pharmaceuticals has begun selling a medical kit that it claims can identify allergies without the use of painful scratch tests and which it hopes will return the company to profitability for the first time in four years.

The chemical process that NMS officials believe can detect allergies ranging from dust to animal hair is currently restricted to use by medical researchers. But NMS hopes to begin selling it to hospitals and clinics by June 1.

The Newport Beach-based company, which recently began marketing a pregnancy-detection kit, expects U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval within 30 to 60 days for the allergy diagnostic kit that is designed to measure histamines in patient blood samples. Histamines are usually generated by allergic reactions.

For more than 50 years, allergists have sought ways to improve upon costly skin tests that can require years to detect specific allergies. Whatever company develops the best solution has a ready-made market of an estimated 60 million Americans who suffer some form of allergies. Although a number of blood tests have been marketed over the years, none has proven completely effective.

Harvey E. Kershnar, an Irvine-based allergist, is skeptical of NMS's new technology. Techniques that test allergies in the blood "tend not be as accurate" as scratch tests, he said. He said that he has tried blood-testing techniques in the past but has found all of them inadequate.

But so certain is NMS of the viability of its new product, that company officials are already gearing up to add 80 new workers within the next year--primarily to manufacture the new product--to the current payroll of 120. The kit has been five years in the making and cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to research, according to Joseph H. Irani, NMS president.

Irani said that he expects big things from the new product. NMS has pumped so much money into product research and development, that it has not reported an annual profit since 1981. Last month it reported losses of $120,823 for the quarter ended Nov. 30, 1984. But Irani said the new allergy detection product could "dramatically turn things around."

The kit, which will be sold for about $350 to hospitals and medical clinics, contains 100 testing tubes.

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