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Coronavirus pandemic | Pharma, cosmetics makers switch to hand sanitisers as demand rockets

Manufacturers expect a 10x jump in demand for sanitisers.
Mar 17, 2020 / 06:23 PM IST
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A slew of new sanitiser brands has hit the market with companies trying to capitalise on its skyrocketing demand as hand cleansing becomes a critical ritual in the face of the coronavirus threat. 

Even renowned pharma brands have started manufacturing the product. 

Cipla, for instance, was never into sanitisers but has started distributing the product since last week.

Just like Cipla, other companies such as ZEE Laboratories and IPC Healthcare have also sprung into action, manufacturing and distributing sanitisers. ZEE Laboratories is a manufacturer of generic pharmaceuticals and cosmetics while IPC was mainly a branded drugs supplier for hospitals.

Manufacturers expect a 10x jump in demand for sanitisers.

Before the crisis struck, there were about 100 sanitiser manufacturers in India, a majority of them with manufacturing units in special category states like Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh.

To be sure, sanitiser isn't a complex product to manufacture. It takes only about 70 percent of pure isopropyl alcohol and 30 percent aloe vera gel or PEG (Polyethylene Glycol) as an inactive ingredient to make sanitiser. What is crucial is the adherence to good manufacturing practices(GMP) in production.

"There are new brands of sanitisers available, we are making sure that the products that meet certain quality attributes like ISO certification, or WHO GMP are on our shelves. We are also verifying the claims of alcohol content by manufacturers by asking for the batch data," said Siddharth Gadia, Director of Generico.

Generico is a chain of over 50 pharmacy retail stores across Mumbai selling generic drugs.

Gadia says people should cross-check the labels before buying sanitisers. WHO recommends alcohol-based sanitisers and frequent washing of hands using soap to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

With reports of coronavirus cases being reported from many parts of India,  people are rushing to medical stores to get their hands on either N95/surgical face masks and sanitisers. India faces a massive shortage of both.

Demand for masks and sanitisers shot up to the extent that even e-commerce websites ran out of these two products. Consequently, the price of masks too shot up multiple times.

By early March, the price of a pack of four sanitiser bottles of 50 ml each shot up to Rs 328 on Amazon from Rs 246 while an N95 mask rocketed to as much as Rs 1,000.

Private-label sanitisers

Herbal brands like Invex and many more have launched sanitisers retailing at around Rs 100-200 for a small bottle.

These herbal sanitisers contain flavours and a dash of ethanol for germicidal effect along with herbs like Neem and Basil i.e. Tulsi.

The demand surge has led to various such private-label brands cropping up in the market that are also able to sell at a premium. A chemist in Mumbai, for example, has a sanitiser brand called Karo Na Care with a manufacturing date in March, that sells at Rs 250 for 100 ml.

“There are a lot of new companies that have started distributing their own private label because there is a surge in demand. This is an opportunity for any company who has a (manufacturing) set up and network for distribution,” said Prashant Singh, Director, Medlife.”

“Lot of companies making cosmetics and perfumes have shifted to sanitisers. In a way, it is helping to reduce the shortage,” he added.

Globally, not only luxury brands have stepped in to fill the shortage of hand sanitisers but also distilleries have started manufacturing their own.

French luxury goods group LVMH will start producing hand sanitiser at three of its perfume and cosmetics factories for distribution to French hospitals.

Since distilleries, highly concentrated ethanol or other alcohols they are well-positioned to either supply ingredients or make anti-bacterial liquids or gels.

Distillers use 96 proof alcohol as the base for drinks such as gin and vodka.

In the US, sensing the demand, USFDA (US Food and Drug Administration) is allowing companies to make their own sanitisers.

The story so far

The novel coronavirus or COVID-19 pandemic has spread across at least 155 countries. There are at least 126 active reported cases of novel coronavirus in India right now. It is a deadly respiratory disease.

Transmission of the virus takes place when someone who is infected comes in contact with another person. According to medical experts, coughing, sneezing or even shaking hands with an affected person can cause exposure.

The Union Health Ministry has said that 13 people have recovered so far, but three have died. The third death was reported from Mumbai today.

Globally, there have been over 1.82 lakh confirmed cases of COVID-19. At least 7,100 people have died so far — the majority of them in China.

However, infections have steadily risen in Iran, Italy, South Korea, Spain and the United States. The outbreak is having a major impact on global economy and the stock market.

Himadri Buch
Viswanath Pilla Viswanath Pilla is a business journalist with 14 years of reporting experience. Based in Mumbai, Pilla covers pharma, healthcare and infrastructure sectors for Moneycontrol.
first published: Mar 17, 2020 06:23 pm

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