The UK pharmacy homecare market looks set for a major shake-up following the arrival of new player Medco Health Solutions (UK), which has just opened for business in Northampton.

The group represents a joint venture between US firm Medco Health Solutions, Inc, one of the world’s largest specialty pharmacy providers, and Dublin, Ireland-based United Drug plc, a leading international provider of outsourced services to the healthcare industry, providing a well of expertise to help it conquer a substantial slice of the market.

Largely offered by pharmaceutical companies to the National Health Service free of charge as value-added packages, the majority of pharmacy homecare services are provided to patients with long-term or complex conditions, such as cancer and HIV, removing the need for a healthcare professional to administer treatment.

The UK market, which is currently ruled by Healthcare at Home, is thought to encapsulate more than 100,000 patients with an estimated drug spend of £1 billion, a figure which is currently rising at 15% per annum.

Already over 30% of the pharmacy budget in hospitals is accounted for by medicines supported by homecare services, but, as a spokeswoman for independent market access consultancy Policy Matters explained to PharmaTimes UK News, as the market expands it will become increasingly important for providers to go beyond ‘merely’ delivering an efficient service.

“The new challenge will be fitting with the NHS’ quality and productivity agenda – the need to demonstrate improved patient concordance, better outcomes from the invested spend on the medication and improved efficiencies (as well as delivering an efficient service)”, she said, and added: “Currently pharmacy homecare isn’t doing this to the level that’s increasingly needed by the NHS, but this is very much Medco’s strength as it’s the type of thing they have to do in the US routinely”.

According to David Hamilton, Managing Director of Medco Health Solutions [UK], both the NHS and pharmaceutical company sponsors “need to ensure a variety of needs are met: highly skilled professional teams, working to tight protocols developed with the clinical team in the Trust, well supported patients with individual tailored counselling and better levels of adherence”. In addition, he highlighted the need for “more sophisticated data collection and reporting supported by seamless information systems”, and stressed that Medco “has the heritage to be able to deliver this new paradigm”.