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Handheld device for treating cold sores now available on NHS

by Hannah Pike

From this month your customers may present with a prescription for aVirulite Cold Sore Machine - the first device for treating cold soresto be available on the NHS. Hannah Pike finds out how it works

Business insight Expanding your income streams and product range


The Virulite Cold Sore Machine (Virulite CS) is not anew invention. It has been available to buy via mail order or from asmall number of community pharmacies since it was launched in 2001.

Itworks by emitting light of a wavelength that its developers claim healscold sores twice as quickly as using an antiviral cream.

Following a number of refinements to the device and two clinical trials,Virulite CS has now been accepted as an addition to part IX of the DrugTariff for England and Wales, (and part 3 of the Scottish Drug Tariff),prescribable on the NHS from 1 January 2008.

Ben Eshelby, pharmacy manager at Calverton Pharmacy,Luton, has been stocking the device for about four weeks. “I wouldnormally be sceptical about this type of product,” he says, “butthe fact that it has been included in the Drug Tariff means that it musthave been looked into.”

Mr Eshelby says that he ordered ten devicesafter receiving an NHS circular announcing the addition to the Drug Tariff,and has sold eight of them so far. He says all of his customer feedbackhas been positive. “People with cold sores try the creams but theyare never 100 per cent happy with them and are always going to be huntingfor something else,” he says.

How it works

Virulite Cold Sore Machine

The Virulite Cold Sore Machine emits infra-red light of a wavelengththat is thought to increase the immune response to the virus

James Haslam, an ophthalmologist and co-founderof Virulite Ltd, explains that the battery-operated device delivers lowenergy, non-thermalquantitiesof naturally occurring infra-red light to the area (wavelength 1072nm)from light-emitting diodes.

He believes that this light enhances thelocal immune response. “Cold sores often occur when a personis run down, and their immune response is low,” he explains.

“ViruliteCS restores the immune response to normal levels, allowing the bodyto heal itself more quickly.”

The evidence

Results of a trial of 60 patients (published in theJournal of Clinical and Experimental Dermatology in 2001)showed that a single applicationof Virulite CS healed cold sores in an average of 4.3 days, comparedwith 8.1 days for topical aciclovir applied five times a day.

A secondtrial, involving 32 patients (published in the same journal in2006), showed that Virulite CS had a mean healing time of 6.3 dayscomparedwith 9.4 days for no treatment. Mr Haslam explains that anecdotalevidence has shown that the device also reduces the recurrenceof cold soresand this is the subject of ongoing research.

The device is ISO13485 compliant (an international quality standard for medicaldevices) and has CE approval (showing that the device complies withrelevantEuropeanhealth and safety legislation). No side effects have been reported.


Community pharmacists can purchase the device for £18.50 (plusVAT) — price negotiable depending on order size. The recommendedretail price is £45 and the NHS reimbursement fee is £18.50.

The device comes with a three-year warranty (five years if prescribed),and can last for up to 10 years. Mr Haslam says the device can also savethe NHS money when prescribed for patients on repeat antiviral prescriptions.

“Ifa patient has seven prescriptions for aciclovir ointment in one year,that is the equivalent of the prescription of one Cold Sore Machine,” hesays.

As well as being stocked in a number of independent pharmacies, the deviceis expected to be available in Boots The Chemists stores from September2008.

Further details can be found at

How to use the ViruliteCold Sore Machine

The device should be used as soon as the customerfeels the “tingle” indicatingthat a cold sore is about to erupt. The customer holds thedevice against the affected area and presses the activationbutton.

A visible light indicator lets the customerknow that invisible infra-red light is being delivered tothe area. Afterthree minutes a “beep” lets the customer know thattreatment is complete.

Customers are advised to repeat thetreatment 12 hours later. If the cold sore progresses, thedevice should be used four times a day for two more days.

Citation: Retail Round-up URI: 10006981

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