ETSU pharmacy school produces hand sanitizer to combat shortages, COVID-19 spread

Published 1:41 pm Monday, April 13, 2020

JOHNSON CITY – East Tennessee State University Bill Gatton College of Pharmacy is producing hand sanitizer to help ETSU Health clinics and first responders curb shortages and prevent the spread of COVID-19.
With the local need identified, Dr. Charles Collins, professor of Pharmaceutical Sciences, immediately went to work in the pharmacy school’s compounding lab producing the hand sanitizer.
“During this stressful time, there are numerous instances in providing quality health care when soap and water are not readily or conveniently available,” said Collins. “This hand sanitizer will allow our health care providers and first responders to quickly clean their hands between patients so they do not spread any infection.”
If interested, first responders can contact Collins at to inquire about receiving free sanitizer.
Despite facing a shortage of hydrogen peroxide, a key component of the official Centers for Disease Control and Prevention hand sanitizer formulation that is used as a preservative, Collins found another way to replace it with an ingredient he had on hand in the lab, benzalkonium chloride.
The formulation Collins ultimately used is ethanol 65% (minimum of 60% needed), benzalkonium chloride 0.13% and glycerin.
Collins also sees the impact this project could have teaching his students at the pharmacy school.
“As a consideration for future events, I plan to incorporate this formulation into our teaching compounding lab so that our pharmacy graduates can be ready when in practice to provide this product should it be necessary during some subsequent medical event to help mitigate a future crisis,” he said.
Dr. Debbie Byrd, dean of the pharmacy school, said the project goes straight to the heart of the college’s mission.
“As we strive to serve the rural and underserved in this region,” said Byrd, “producing hand sanitizer is just one way we can help support health care workers in our community as they fight the spread of COVID-19. In addition, this is a great way to show students how important a pharmacist’s skills are to help patients during a public health crisis.”
 As Collins obtains more raw materials, he will continue to produce more hand sanitizer for Quillen College of Medicine and ETSU Health.
“The need to use hand sanitizer has never been greater with supplies quickly being depleted,” said Dr. Bill Block, vice president for clinical affairs and dean of the medical school. “Gatton College of Pharmacy’s help to supply this crucial need is instrumental in keeping our patients, faculty and staff safe from transmission of COVID-19. I can’t thank them enough for how they are helping ETSU Health and our community.”

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