Corsham-based pharmaceutical specials manufacturer Bath ASU has been recognised with the Queen’s Award for Enterprise in Innovation for a ground-breaking initiative that has improved treatment for patients and saves the NHS significant amounts of money.
The award has been made following Bath ASU’s success in extending the manufacturers’ shelf lives of biologic chemotherapy drugs, following months of dedicated work from a specifically assembled Research and Development team, working in conjunction with the University of Bath.
Bath ASU established the R&D unit with private funding to try to find a way of extending the shelf lives of these products. In order to achieve that it had to prove that it was technologically possible and change the way NHS hospitals operate. They succeeded in doing this after years of dedicated work. The NHS Pharmaceutical Quality Assurance Committee ratified the approach by adopting a new standard, enabling Bath ASU to offer biologics to the market with shelf lives extended up to a maximum of 84 days.
The effect on cancer patients and on the hospitals that treat them has been profound and is summed up by Andrew McKendrick, who is Lead Pharmacist – Cancer & Aseptic Services and a Pharmacist Independent Prescriber at Weston Area Health NHS Trust.
“This has transformed our entire approach because we are now able to purchase high use lines essentially as batch products and keep them on the shelf as stock,” he explains.
“We have no in-house unit of our own and the extended stability allows us to outsource a batch which has tremendous benefits to staffing capacity, saving time and resource and enabling us to focus on the patients rather than on the drugs.
“There is a real added benefit here in that the extended shelf life dovetails beautifully with a directive from NHS England which has called for dose banding and standardisation of chemotherapy treatments. This means that patients are assessed according to their illness and personal criteria and prescribed drugs accordingly. Extending the shelf life means that we can keep more drug lines as stock and administer them to a range of patients within the prescribed dose band. Extending the shelf life has directly made this possible, and the result is that the entire process is improved, with much greater flexibility and less procurement pressure, and far more patient focus.
“We’re the smallest acute hospital trust in England, and we can’t afford to have waste in the services we provide, especially with the very high cost of many of the specialised chemotherapy drugs.
“Before the advent of the extended shelf life products it was common for us to waste an average of £5,000 a month because patients would be too unwell to be treated. The short shelf life innate in the drugs meant that we had to destroy them and order replacements. The extended shelf life products have saved, typically, at least 80 per cent of this wastage and that has made a significant difference to the way we operate.
Bath ASU Director Chris Watt says that the Queens Award for Innovation is a significant milestone for Bath ASU. “It is extremely gratifying to see the dedication and commitment of the team directly resulting in a better experience for cancer patients and providing a major helping hand for oncology units in hospitals throughout the country. The recognition of all of this with the Queens Award is a tremendous reward not just for the R&D team, but for the entire business and every single member of staff, we are all delighted and deeply honoured,” he concludes.