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Call to stop regulating hand sanitisers as medicines

14 April 2021

A HAND sanitiser manufacturer is calling on the government to change the rules which deny hand sanitiser products the ability to say whether they are effective against coronavirus.

The UK government has advised the general public to use hand sanitiser to combat the spread of COVID-19 when soap and water aren’t available. However, hand sanitisers in the UK are not permitted to make efficacy claims against specific germs, including the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 which causes COVID-19.

Unlike Europe, the MHRA regulations state that any hand sanitiser which makes claims against COVID-19 - or the transmission of the virus which causes it - needs to be licensed as a medicine to be sold in the UK.

Dr Trevor Francis, chief technology officer at Byotrol believes the current approach is unreasonable and is limiting consumers’ ability to be confident that the product they’re buying is effective. "There has never been a more important time to select a hand sanitiser which is proven to be effective," he said.

"Many people – both professionals and consumers - are purchasing and using hand sanitiser for the first time. They simply aren’t aware of the vast differences in quality and efficacy of products on the market thanks to the censoring of product claims by the MHRA. Hand sanitiser is not, and never will be, a medicine. But it can be an important weapon in preventing the spread of germs and its use in a pandemic is absolutely vital.”

Prior to the pandemic, it was commonplace for hand sanitisers to list specific pathogens relevant to the sector they were used in. This gave professional users and consumers some confidence that the product they had selected would meet their individual needs.

However, during the pandemic, the MHRA has policed the market more aggressively. In 2020 it determined that 341 products on the UK market were making medicinal claims relating to COVID-19 or Coronavirus and approached the 69 manufacturers to remove the claims from marketing materials.

The result of the MHRA rule is confusion amongst professionals and consumers about which products are proven to be effective against Coronavirus and how best to protect their employees, visitors, or families. It comes as the hand sanitiser market is flooded with a multitude of products that are ineffective, dangerous or just haven’t been tested to the accepted UK / European standards.

Dr Francis added: “What the industry needs is a sensible regulatory regime to provide consumers and professionals with clarity on which germs a product has been tested against to the proper industry-standard tests and how long it takes to work. Any confusion only serves to hinder our progress in reducing the transmission of COVID-19.”