Representational image of a hand sanitiser
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New Delhi: The central government has started a drive to check samples of hand sanitisers across the country, following complaints of substandard products being sold in the market, ThePrint learnt. 

State drug regulators have collected samples of hand-sanitisers manufactured by all kinds of companies — from local units to top brands such as Dettol, Himalaya, Godrej, Savlon, Odonil and Elder Pharmaceuticals — to check their quality. While the drive started last month, the total number of samples collected is yet to be ascertained.

The drive was started after the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO) shot off a letter on 16 June, instructing state drug regulators to keep strict vigil on the sale of sub-standard hand sanitisers.

ThePrint has a copy of the letter, titled ‘Increase in Covid-19 cases because of selling of hand sanitisers on the streets’, sent by Joint Drug Controller Dr P.B.N. Prasad. 

“From top selling brands such as Dettol, Himalaya, Godrej, Savlon, Odonil and Elder Pharmaceuticals to local products, the samples have been collected across categories,” said a senior official from the CDSCO, who did not wish to be named. 

Following the letter, several states have started filing FIRs against manufacturers. 

More than 10 FIRs have been lodged by the drug regulator of Haryana after checking 248 samples. A majority of complaints have been found in ‘Ayurvedic’ hand sanitisers. 

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Dr N.K. Ahooja, State Drug Controller, Haryana, told ThePrint: “Ayurvedic hand sanitisers are mostly found (to be) substandard, considering there are no set standards for hand sanitiser surface disinfectant in Ayurvedic books and laws. The top authoritative books of Ayurveda mentioned in the schedule under the Drugs Act, including Charak Samhita, never mention hand sanitisers or surface disinfectant.” 

Ahooja added, “Hence, it was easy for manufacturers to produce these products as Ayurvedic amid the raging pandemic when everyone will buy these products. We have raided the factories, and filed more than 10 FIRs and collected 248 samples.”

He said several allopathic hand sanitiser makers are also under the lens “for selling inferior quality” products. “Irrespective of brand name, we have collected samples from all top brands, including Dettol, Himalaya, Godrej, Savlon, among others. However, the results are awaited.”  

Also read: How the hand sanitiser came about — from 12th century to 1997

‘Inferior, duplicate, spurious’

The government’s letter to the state drug regulators stated: “You are requested to instruct the officials under your control to keep strict vigil on the movement of such products.” 

It added, “Further, you are requested to investigate the matter and take the appropriate action under the provisions of Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940.”

The letter said “any action taken in the matter may be please be intimated to this office”. 

The instructions come after Yash Aggarwal, legal head, South Chemists and Distributors Association, had sent a complaint to the government about the sale of substandard sanitisers.

The complaint filed by Aggarwal on 12 June said: “In the last few months, with huge demand for sanitisers, we have also seen many cases of fake and duplicate products being sold all over the country.”

His email also included photographs of a shop of a real-estate agent selling sanitisers and a picture of a parked car on the road-side selling these products. “Please find a few pictures with their location attached for your reference with this letter and see how hand sanitisers are being sold by anyone, everyone and on the streets.” 

The e-mail, which was marked to Union Minister of Health Dr Harsh Vardhan, Health Secretary Preeti Sudan and Drug Controller General of India V.G. Somani, said, “We feel that the rising cases of Covid-19 could also be due to use of inferior, duplicate, spurious hand sanitisers, which provide no protection to the consumer.” 

Misleading claims, incorrect label details, illegal sales

According to the initial screening of the samples collected, the government has found in them “over-hyped claims of killing 99.9 per cent germs, incorrect label details, contravention of rules under Drugs and Cosmetics Act, selling medicinal sanitisers despite obtaining cosmetic licences and selling products without obtaining any manufacturing and marketing license”, said the CDSCO official quoted above.

“However, the samples of the products are sent for testing, based on which further action will be taken,” he added.

Also read: Hand sanitisers, masks declared essential commodities to control price, check hoarding


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