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By SARA ARTHURS
Pharmacy students at the University of Findlay have been continuing their education, while helping in the fight against the coronavirus at the same time.
The university’s pharmacy is a compounding pharmacy, meaning it has the ability to make drugs on site. After faculty learned there was a need for this product, the students have been at work making hand sanitizer to be distributed to local health care professionals.
Debra Parker, dean of the UF College of Pharmacy, said students have learned to make hand sanitizer before, but this time they are gaining “a new respect” for how important it can be.
“It’s been humbling, to them, and gratifying” to feel they have a way to contribute, she said.
The university noted that Blanchard Valley Health System has reached out to the community seeking donations of supplies including new N95 respirators, surgical masks, protective glasses and goggles, face shields, disinfecting wipes, digital thermometers or Tempa-dots and hand sanitizer.
With the obvious strain on resources, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has made available “guidances to provide flexibility to help meet the demand for hand sanitizer,” states a university press release.
Tonya Dauterman said in the press release that students and faculty working on the hand sanitizer project are remaining compliant with guidelines set by Gov. Mike DeWine regarding social distancing and are following “the FDA and WHO (World Health Organization) guidelines to maximize the highest quality product made in a non-industry setting.” Dauterman is assistant professor of pharmacy practice, associate dean of external affairs and advocacy, and chair of experiential education.
Ingredients used in making hand sanitizer include a high concentration of isopropyl alcohol, glycerin, hydrogen peroxide and distilled water. The UF team measures and mixes the ingredients in proportion to FDA guidelines and then, after they are mixed, tests the mixture for the appropriate alcohol concentration with an alcohol hydrometer. Before distribution, the solution is left to stand for three days and reevaluated.
Parker said it’s “not a complicated formula,” but some ingredients are hard to obtain.
Some social media posts have advocated lay people making hand sanitizer at home with alcohol. But Parker said the difference is the UF team knows for certain where they’re getting the ingredients from, and they have the laboratory equipment to test it afterward to ensure it’s the right concentration of alcohol. It’s the alcohol that is the active ingredient that kills the virus, she said.
The hand sanitizer is being distributed first to Blanchard Valley Health System, with whatever is left going to community pharmacies and first responders, Parker said.
Parker said washing your hands with soap and water is considered the best way to kill the virus. However, if soap and water aren’t available, hand sanitizer is “the next best thing.”
The university has moved to online learning rather than face-to-face classes. But Parker said some pharmacy students live in the area, and agreed to join faculty in the hand sanitizer project. She stressed that it’s a small number of people who have come into the lab, and participants are “maintaining appropriate social distance.”