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SYNCOR INVESTING IN MRI CENTERS.

Byline: Gregory J. Wilcox Daily News Staff Writer

Syncor International Corp. said Wednesday that it would invest $5 million in a joint venture with Thousand Oaks-based National Diagnostic Services Inc. to establish a chain of magnetic resonance imaging centers that will offer patients a nonclaustrophobic experience.

The unit will be called Syncor Diagnostics and its facilities will use a new MRI technology that features an open, permanent magnet known in the industry as an ``open MRI.''

Plans call for 10 centers by year's end.

``Syncor's entry into the medical imaging business is the initial step to diversifying our base business,'' said Robert Funari, the company's president and chief executive officer.

Steven E. Krieger, National Diagnostics' senior vice president of development for the past 10 years, will leave that company and become Syncor Diagnostics president and chief operating officer.

Krieger said that the new imaging units have several advantages over the old MRI systems.

Besides being less expensive - they cost about $1 million each, about 50 percent less than the traditional systems - they are less intimidating for patients.

Traditional MRI equipment consists of a round magnet with a tube running down the center into which the patient is placed. It can be discomforting to some people who have a fear of being enclosed in a tight space and may require that they be sedated.

The new magnets are typically open on the sides.

Dr. Ross Eto, a radiologist at Hill Medical in Pasadena, said that the open magnets, known as low field magnets, are less powerful than the closed units, known as high field magnets, but provide just as good image quality in most instances.

They can be used for a variety of diagnostic purposes.

``The low field can do anything that the high field can do,'' Eto said.

Krieger said that up to five of the centers could be open within the next ``60 to 75 days.''

Also on Wednesday, Syncor International, which operates 121 commercial pharmacies that dispense radiopharmaceutical products to medical facilities, said that one of its customers, Premier Purchasing Partners Inc., is canceling a distribution agreement effective March 31.

The annual value of the Premier contracts to Syncor is estimated to be in the range of $60 million to $65 million annually.

But Mary L. Meusborn, Syncor's manager of investor relations, said that the financial impact to her company will not be that severe.

She estimates that the potential impact in 1997 could be in the range of $5 million to $10 million for revenue and $1 million to $2 million for pretax profits.

About $29 million of the business is not at risk because Syncor does not have any competitors in some of the areas where Premiere medical facilities are located.

``If you're a Premiere hospital in that noncompetitive area and you need a radiological pharmacy, the only player in town is Syncor,'' said Meusborn.
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Title Annotation:BUSINESS
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Feb 6, 1997
Words:479
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