Pharmaceutical companies in United Kingdom are turning increasingly to home delivery of medicines as a way to boost profits by cutting out wholesalers and pharmacists.

According to Simon French, director of business development for Healthcare Logistics, a Bedford-based specialist in the field, the total size of the UK market for pharmaceuticals delivered directly to patient’s doors is already worth an estimated £250 million and is growing at 10 to 15 percent per year.

Medicines delivered direct to a patient’s home are not subject to VAT, allowing cash-strapped local NHS Primary Care Trusts to shave millions of pounds off their total medicine bills. Some high-value HIV and cancer drugs can cost £750 or £1,000 per patient month – and so the VAT savings for the NHS are considerable. By treating patients at home, primary care trusts can also save the cost of about £1,500 of administering drugs and treating patients in hospital. It also helps drug companies to cut costs by taking greater control of the medicine supply chain.

Home delivery – by courier – has existed for several years in the UK, mostly as a specialist service for patients with conditions such as haemophilia, multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis, who require regular, repeat prescriptions of drugs that need to be administered by a nurse, often by injection.

Drug companies like  Roche, of Switzerland, Bristol-Myers Squibb, of the United States, AstraZeneca, of Britain, and Sanofi-Aventis, of France are understood to be taking this approach.

In America the  practice widespread, where drug treatment at home has been encouraged by health insurance groups because it is cheaper than treatment in hospitals. However, drug companies are now branching out and adopting the practice for new disease areas and patient groups. The widespread use of “biologic” drugs – made from living biological material, rather than from conventional pharmaceutical ingredients – is another factor.

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