Hank Investigates: Some MA pharmacies struggle to get ingredients to make hand sanitizer

ARLINGTON, MASS. (WHDH) - Hand sanitizer: it’s nearly impossible to get. But we found Massachusetts gave the green light for pharmacies to make it. How does the system work? And how can you get some?

Hand sanitizer is a hot commodity.

If you use the proper alcohol-based kind, it can kill the COVID-19 virus and stop it from spreading.

Since stores are sold out and online retailers are out of stock, Massachusetts is now allowing certain pharmacies to make sanitizer, and sell it to the public.

“We want to allow patients and health care providers to use it when they need it. And so they thought this would be a valuable service,” Todd Brown, Executive Director, Massachusetts Independent Pharmacists Association said.

The Maida Pharmacy Compounding and Wellness in Arlington is now mixing concentrated alcohol, and other ingredients in the state-approved formula, and turning it into hand sanitizer.

There’s a huge demand people are buying it,” Angelo Maida, Pharma D, Compounding Pharmacist from Maida Pharmacy Compounding and Wellness said.

But Todd Brown, the executive director of the Massachusetts Independent Pharmacists Association says the ingredient in the state approved sanitizer formula can be tough to get.

The high strength alcohol is on backorder. It’s unavailable it’s not likely to be available anytime soon,” Brown said.

Now we have learned, the Independent Pharmacists Association is asking the state to approve other sanitizer formulas that are still effective, but the ingredients are easier to get.

“What’s the status of your request to the state?” Hank asked.

“We hope the Department of Public Health will quickly authorize pharmacies to use the alternative formulas,” Brown said.

And pharmacists warn customers to give them plenty of time to fill their orders and prescriptions– and consider curbside pickup or prescription delivery to maintain social distancing.

“It can go a long way in fighting this pandemic,” Madia said.

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health now says they are keenly aware of the hand sanitizer situation and are actively exploring opportunities for pharmacies to expand production.

Click here for more on COVID-19 patient recommendations from the Massachusetts Independent Pharmacists Association, including this guidance:

  • Reduce the number of visits to your pharmacy
  • Talk to your pharmacist about getting an early refill of prescription medication to ensure you will have an adequate supply
  • We are not recommending a 90-day supply currently to reduce the possibility of drug shortages
  • Ensure an adequate supply of nonprescription medication
  • Consider delivery, curbside pick-up or other options
  • Consider having your medication synchronized so that they are all due at the same time. Give your pharmacy extra time to provide the services you need.
  • Call in refills 4-5 days before the medication is needed
  • Be prepared to have the pharmacy call you back if they are busy
  • Be flexible with the delivery of pick-up times
  • Ask your pharmacist about off-peak early morning or late evening delivery or pick-up

Maida Pharmacy Compounding and Wellness in Arlington has a waitlist for the hand sanitizer. Contact the store to get your name on the list. 

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