Due to high demand caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the University of Minnesota’s College of Pharmacy and M Health Fairview are partnering to produce thousands of gallons of hand sanitizer.
The initiative has involved staff and students working together to create the batches, with the first batch occurring in March. Since the initial amount, they have produced 75 gallons each day on the Twin Cities campus at the Good Manufacturing Practices Services Core. The hand sanitizer will be distributed within the University hospital system.
So far, they have produced more than 1,200 gallons of hand sanitizer.
“As demands changes, we’re able to modify our production levels,” said Landen Sanderson, the site manager of the Fairview Compounding Pharmacy in M Health Fairview.
To make the sanitizer in the pharmacy, technicians work with pharmacists and mix one gallon at a time. The process is fairly easy but requires quality assurance, said Vadim Gurvich, the associate director of the Institute for Therapeutics Discovery and Development in the College of Pharmacy.
“You basically mix all of the ingredients based on the FDA guidance, and then you test them to make sure the portion of ingredients is correct,” he said.
Sanderson said the relationships they had with other companies to acquire ingredients quickly was a part of the partnership’s success.
“They really rallied around us to make sure we had the supplies we needed,” he said. When they reached out to Hawkins Inc., a manufacturer and distributor of industrial chemicals throughout the U.S., they were able to get alcohol for the hand sanitizer within a week.
Discussion about starting hand sanitizer production began before the Federal Drug Administration released guidance on how to make it in March. Production has been funded by the COVID-19 funding through Fairview pharmacy services and M Health Fairview.
Kathryn Gray, a second-year pharmacy student, volunteered because she knew the program was short-staffed and needed hand sanitizer production to be done quickly.
“Hand sanitizer, you think of it in the grand scheme of things, it may seem like something small,” she said. “… [But] hand sanitizer in a small way can also prevent people from getting sick.”
Through obtaining materials and staff volunteers, Gray said they are doing everything they can to help.
During this pandemic, there have not been many ways for students to get involved and pitch in, said Kailey Meyer, another volunteer and a second-year pharmacy student.
“When it all started, nobody was prepared, nobody was ready for what was coming. It all happened really quickly, we ran out of the hand sanitizer … I just felt it was important for me to do what I can,” Meyer said.