Chemotherapy drugs to be delivered by drone in British trials


Britain’s National Health Service is to use drones to courier chemotherapy drugs in a bid to speed up the delivery of vital medicines, cutting the delivery time from four hours to 30 minutes. — Apian/PA Media/dpa

LONDON: British health officials want to use drones to courier chemotherapy drugs in a bid to speed up the delivery of vital medicines.

It is hoped that using drone technology will one day enable doctors to make “same-day delivery” orders for drugs and medical equipment from anywhere in the country.

A pilot scheme from Britain’s National Health Service (NHS) is to be launched to assess using drone technology in the health service. The trial will see a drone deliver chemotherapy drugs from the pharmacy at Portsmouth Hospitals University NHS Trust to St Mary’s Hospital on the Isle of Wight.

The drone will cut delivery times to the Isle of Wight from four hours to 30 minutes, as one flight will replace two car journeys and one hovercraft or ferry journey per delivery.

NHS England officials said that chemotherapy is difficult to transport as some doses have a short shelf life.

As well as saving time and money, the new delivery method, launched in partnership with tech company Apian, will offer a better option for cancer patients living on the island, many of whom have to travel to the mainland for treatment, officials added.

The drone programme will be trialled initially in the Isle of Wight followed by Northumbria.

Amanda Pritchard, chief executive of NHS England, announced the pilot as the health service marked its 74th birthday on July 5.

“Delivering chemo by drone is another extraordinary development for cancer patients and shows how the NHS will stop at nothing to ensure people get the treatment they need as promptly as possible – while also cutting costs and carbon admissions,” she said.

“From a smartwatch to manage Parkinson’s to revolutionary prostate treatments and making the most expensive drug in the world available to NHS patients it has been another amazing year of innovation in the way the health service delivers treatment and care.”

Darren Cattell, chief executive of Isle of Wight NHS Trust, said the project was “still at a relatively early stage but the use of drones to transport medical supplies is a concept that has radical and positive implications for both the NHS and for patients across the UK as well as the Isle of Wight”. – dpa

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