Alliance taps Picker for MRI agent debut

September 25, 1991

Alliance Pharmaceutical signed on Picker International's HealthCare Products division as exclusive North American distributorfor its first medical imaging contrast product. Alliance is developing imaging agents for MRI, CT and ultrasoundbased on

Alliance Pharmaceutical signed on Picker International's HealthCare Products division as exclusive North American distributorfor its first medical imaging contrast product.

Alliance is developing imaging agents for MRI, CT and ultrasoundbased on patented perfluorocarbon technology (SCAN 2/28/90).

Picker will sell Imagent-GI, an oral MRI agent that darkensthe bowels and enables clearer imaging of abdominal organs. Alliancefiled for FDA marketing approval of the agent in December andhopes to initiate sales early next year.

The San Diego contrast developer will have a booth at the RadiologicalSociety of North America meeting in Chicago for the first timethis December. It will be adjacent to Picker's booth, said JackDeFranco, vice president of marketing for Alliance.

Alliance is recruiting regional sales and marketing supportpersonnel to assist Picker in selling Imagent-GI. Picker's HealthCare Products radiological accessories business is already a majordistributor of Schering's Magnevist, the only MR agent approvedin the U.S. The two products are complementary, since Magnevist,a gadolinium-DTPA contrast product, is indicated for head andspine MR imaging, he said.

The Imagent-GI distribution agreement will run for an initialthree-year period, commencing with FDA approval. Alliance chosePicker as a partner because of its strong direct accessories salesforce of about 65 representatives and its telemarketing group--bothtargeted at medical imaging departments, DeFranco said.

Picker is "the largest distributor of MRI contrast agentsused to enhance studies of the head and spine," accordingto a company statement. The Cleveland-based vendor is a majormedical imaging equipment supplier with annual sales of $814 million.

"The contrast agent segment is growing faster than anyother segment of the radiology market. We welcome the opportunityto expand our product portfolio in this area," said JerryC. Cirino, vice president of marketing for the Health Care Productsdivision.

Alliance contrast products are based on a synthetic compoundcalled perfluorooctylbromide (perflubron). The company is alsodeveloping therapy products based on this technology.

Two other Alliance contrast agents are further back in thedevelopment pipeline: an agent for use in CT examinations of thelymph nodes and another for CT and ultrasound blood flow imaging.The market for both of these agents should be larger than thatfor Imagent-GI. Both agents are several years from approval, DeFrancosaid.

Imagent-GI, however, is the only one of the three perflubronagents suitable as MRI contrast. The other two products are injectedinto the body in an emulsified form. This introduces hydrogenatoms into the agent, he said.

The oral Imagent-GI agent darkens the bowels because of itsnegative effect on MRI scanners, which measure the degree of excitationof hydrogen atoms in the body.

Boehringer Ingelheim, a German pharmaceutical company, is assistingin the development of the perflubron technology and has the marketingrights for Imagent-GI in the rest of the world. Boehringer's regulatoryefforts for the agents are a few months behind the U.S. schedule,DeFranco said.