Saline rinse maker needs larger plant for expanding markets

[caption id="attachment_27254" align="alignright" width="199" caption="Ketan Mehta and Nina Mehta have expanded their company's footprint in Santa Rosa from 60,000 to 120,000 square feet."][/caption]

SANTA ROSA – NeilMed Pharmaceuticals Inc., the developer and principal maker of saline nasal rinses and related products, has expanded into an additional 90,000 square feet near the Charles M. Schulz-Sonoma County Airport.

The company has leased a 120,000-square-foot building on Brickway Boulevard, adjacent to the 60,000-square- foot building NeilMed owns on Aviation Boulevard.

“We became too crowded to operate comfortably,” said co-founder and CEO Ketan Mehta, M.D.

During the last four years, NeilMed’s staff has grown from 35 to 250, or 275 counting part-time workers. Its unionized manufacturing division now numbers 90 to 100, said Dr. Mehta.

NeilMed originally launched a simple saline nasal rinse and cleansing product designed to give sufferers of non-allergic rhinitis – an irritation to nerve endings in the nose due to airborne particles and chemicals – a natural, holistic alternative to nasal sprays, antihistamines and cortical steroids.

Dr. Mehta and NeilMed’s co-founder and president Nina Mehta waged a tireless campaign to educate physicians and consumers about the benefits of using a nasal rinse once or twice a day.

“It should be just like brushing your teeth. The benefits are just as positive. You'll catch far fewer colds and require far fewer doctors’ visits and prescription and non-prescription drugs that often don't work anyway," said Dr. Mehta, a pulmonary and critical care practitioner in Santa Rosa.

After surgery to cure his own chronic rhinitis was unsuccessful, he developed the product's combination of salts and soda, PH-balanced so that it doesn't burn the nasal passages and the special bottle and cap delivery system.

The products took off as pharmacists and physicians embraced them and within five years were selling in all the major U.S. drug chains and moving into the Canadian and UK markets.

Currently NeilMed makes more than 16 products, including mists, sprays, gels and pediatric kits.

“We launched three new products last year and just released our newest: a surfactant that reduces surface tension and allows for deeper cleaning,” said Dr. Mehta.

NeilMed will launch a major marketing campaign in January to introduce SinuSurf to its distributors and retailers.

The products have expanded from pharmaceutical chains to general merchandise and club stores, including Wal-Mart, Kmart, Costco, Sam’s Club and other large outlets.

NeilMed now maintains offices in Canada, England, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Malaysia, Poland and Hungary.

All manufacturing currently takes place in Santa Rosa at NeilMed’s headquarters. The company has received offers of incentives from New Jersey and North Carolina to move the facility, he said.

“We haven’t ruled it out. Most of the population of the U.S. is east of the Rockies. But we have no immediate plans to leave Sonoma County,” he said.

NeilMed has a three-year lease on the Brickway location.

The 10-year-old company has weathered a poor economy and is currently the subject of a hearing pending before the national Labor Relations Board related to a strike by manufacturing employees.

He’s proud that the company he and his former wife, Ms. Mehta, founded in 2000 has never laid off employees.

“Things are now running smoothly in our manufacturing operation,” said Dr. Mehta.

For more information visit www.neilmed.com.