The Gujarat Food and Drug Control Administration (FDCA) has detected 14 sub-standard (not of standard quality- NSQ) hand sanitisers based on its special drive of random sampling across the state to curb its rampant unethical marketing during the lockdown period. As a part of the drive, total 362 samples from the drug stores, hospitals and manufacturing sites were collected through random sampling.
There are a total of 500 manufacturers of hand sanitisers in the state. Gujarat FDCA had earlier also suspended 73 drug retail licenses for selling 2 ply and 3 ply surgical masks, N95 masks and hand sanitizers meant for COVID-19 management at exorbitant prices. A hand sanitiser having landing cost of Rs. 15 was sold at the arbitrary price of Rs. 25.
The state drug regulator has also served show cause notices (SCNs) on the erring licensees. “The special drive conducted over the lockdown period was meant to ensure that quality compliant hand sanitizers are made available. We are constantly keeping a watch to curb illegal sale of poor quality hand sanitisers in the state,” said Gujarat FDCA Commissioner Dr H G Koshia.
In order to tide over the shortage of hand sanitisers in the state and also in the country, the Gujarat government has exempted sale and distribution of ethanol for production of hand sanitisers. Gujarat FDCA recommended the prohibition department to exempt ethanol sale for production of hand sanitisers which was brought under the ambit of essential commodities and subsequent price control due to its unethical marketing. The exemption which was notified by the state government was done because the cost of isopropyl alcohol (IPA) which was Rs. 80 per litre earlier before the COVID 19 pandemic outbreak is being sold illegally at arbitrary price of Rs. 300 per litre.
The exemption was based on the recommendations of the state level committee headed by Gujarat FDCA Commissioner Dr H G Koshia. IPA is the most common and widely used disinfectant in pharmaceutical industry, hospitals, cleanrooms, electronics and medical device manufacturing. Prices of raw materials like IPA used in manufacturing of hand sanitisers surged 200-300 per cent in the wake of huge demand for hand antiseptics since the coronavirus outbreak in India.
According to scientific literature, alcohol based hand sanitisers are very effective in killing microbes which cause COVID-19 infection. One of the main disinfectants found in hand sanitizers is the isopropyl alcohol. The prices of IPA skyrocketed three times in a matter of few days. Besides this, the prices of plastic bottle, cap, spray pump have also increased almost by 200 to 300 per cent in the wake of huge scarcity.
The government on March 13, 2020 notified masks and hand sanitisers as essential commodities till June 30 in the wake of huge shortage of the products. As per the Essential Commodities (EC) Act, there will be crackdown on those selling the masks and hand sanitizers above maximum retail price. National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) has asked states to take steps to curb black marketing of such products and ensure that products are sold at MRP. The EC Act also allows state governments to regulate manufacturing, distribution and price of the products. There are reports that sanitizers are either unavailable with most retailers or available with great difficulty at exorbitant prices.