After more than 30 years of mixing ingredients to create personalized allergy-relieving medications, a California doctor is gearing up to sell his solutions nationwide.
Dr. Robert Bocian and his daughter Shani started a company called Allermi and raised $1.25 million in pre-funding led by Lucas Venture Group to get it off the ground.
They were inspired in part by the boom in digital, direct-to-consumer healthcare led by companies like Roman and Curology, according to Shani Bocian. She is the CEO of the company.
“We’re super excited about this direct-to-patient model where we can have really specialized individualized care and highly specialized therapy,” Shani said in an interview.
Allermi’s service is currently available in California, but the San Francisco-based company is pursuing approvals in other states, starting with Florida and Texas, Shani said. The ingredients are available commercially, but the company needs state licenses to combine them into patient-specific blends. The blends target nasal allergies, also known as hay fever or allergic rhinitis. They affect every third person.
Before Allermi prescribes its medications, patients complete an online intake questionnaire, which is then evaluated by an Allermi allergist. The company uses the information to create a customized spray, writes the prescription, and then mails the drug on a monthly basis or on demand. The price is $45 per month.
Different ingredients address different allergy symptoms, the Bocians said.
According to the company’s website, a patient suffering from runny nose, sneezing and itchy eyes can be given a mixture of azelastine, ipratropium and nomethasone. Contrast this with a patient with nasal congestion, sinus pain, and postnasal drip who may be sent a spray of olopatadine, oxymetazoline, and triamcinolone.
“The degree of customization we can bring to the patient is quite remarkable in terms of drug components in a single spray,” said Dr. Bocian.
Allermi adjusts the prescription based on patient feedback. “It’s an ongoing relationship that we have with patients that really aims for excellence and complete symptom control,” said Dr. Bocian, a professor of allergy and immunology at Stanford Medicine. “If we can achieve this … in a high-allergy region like California, we can achieve it anywhere.”
The company refers patients to GPs if they have other problems that need to be addressed, such as sinus disease or a deviated septum.
The company currently serves several hundred patients a month after a soft launch in June. The company expects that number to grow into the thousands over the next year as marketing develops. To handle increased demand, Allermi partnered with grocery chain Albertsons, which operates a blending facility in San Jose.
The pre-funding will cover expanded manufacturing as well as patient software development. The firm has also hired a chief marketing officer, Christian Liu. Previously, he was head of growth at probiotic acne care company Phyla and worked in marketing for gut health company Ombre, formerly known as Thryve.
Patients usually rely on over-the-counter medications to treat nasal allergies. But treatments are often imperfect, and patients end up experimenting with different drugs. said the Bocians. Few visit allergists, in part because of the cost and shortage of professionals, according to Shani, who relied on her father’s solutions for her own allergies.
“It’s also often a wait of up to six months,” she said. “So people go to the pharmacy aisle and self-medicate.”
A combination spray called Dymista is available by prescription. But Dr. Bocian said he doesn’t prescribe it in part because of the side effects, which can include nosebleeds.
Dissatisfaction with existing approaches is what led Dr. Bocian to begin mixing his own drugs for patients in the 1990s. He also believes that allergy patients are wrongly expected to settle for a certain degree of suffering from their symptoms.
“I have never used this approach in my practice,” said Dr. Bocian. “So I think Allermi represents a significant advance.”
Photo: Pakhnyushchyy, Getty Images