In response to a shortage of hand sanitizer, pharmacists and chemists from the Gordon Center for Medical Imaging at Massachusetts General Hospital have converted their lab into a facility to produce pump bottles of hand sanitizer.

The group delivered its first batch, 19 bottles, of the ethanol-based product to Mass General's Environmental Services Department last week. With a projected total production of 4,000 bottles, they hope to create enough sanitizer to meet the hospital’s demand for the next two weeks, says Daniel Yokell, PharmD, associate director of Radiopharmacy and Regulatory Affairs in the Gordon Center in the Department of Radiology.

“I heard about the shortage, and I thought, we have all the infrastructure, the people and the bandwidth to produce this product,” says Yokell.

The 10-member team—which worked closely with staff in materials management, nursing and environmental services—followed the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) policy for “Temporary Compounding of Certain Alcohol-Based Hand Sanitizer Products During the Public Health Emergency,” using 80% ethanol, glycerin, hydrogen peroxide and sterile water, to produce their first batch. “It was like we were back in pharmacy school, compounding creams and lotions. It’s just a different use of the materials we have on hand—and our skill sets,” says Yokell.

Two men delivering hand sanitizerAfter clearance by Mass General safety and hospital compliance, the next step was bottling the solution using sterile and safe methods, then bottling the product into hand pump containers.

“This is a great conversion success story, where Dan and his staff used their know-how to make something essential in the fight against COVID-19,” says Georges El Fakhri, PharmD, DABR, director of the Gordon Center.

The group is now working on its next production run. With 3,000 bottles and hand pumps scheduled to be delivered this week, Yokell is confident the group can meet Mass General’s demand for hand sanitizer in the short term. “Two weeks ago, demand was 45 bottles a day,” he says. “Our goal is to double that amount and backfill what is needed. We want to produce enough to be sufficient for hand hygiene for the whole hospital.”

James Brink, MD, radiologist-in-chief, says, “I’m so pleased and proud that our radiochemistry team was able to apply their talents so effectively to produce a product that is vital in our fight against COVID-19. They needed to think creatively and retool their operation completely, and they did so in a very thoughtful and efficient way.”