Dealers in pharmaceutical products are struggling to meet growing demand for disinfectants, particularly antibacterial hand-sanitisers, as people take preventive measures to avoid an outbreak of the deadly Ebola viral disease.
Ebola, a communicable but not airborne disease, has so far claimed 1,013 lives out of about 1,848 cases reported in West Africa. Several suspected cases of the disease in the country have returned negative results, but Ghanaians are leaving nothing to chance.
With no clinically accepted vaccine for the disease, the best way to handle Ebola is prevention through means such as disinfectants. Hand-sanitisers, which usually come in 50ml, 100ml or 250ml bottles, have now become the most sought after item, with retail outlets making a kill in recent weeks.
A hand-sanitiser or hand-antiseptic is a supplement or alternative to hand-washing with soap and water. Many preparations are available, including gel, foam, and liquid solutions.
Alcohol rub sanitisers kill most bacteria and fungi, and stop some viruses. Alcohol rub sanitisers containing at least 70 percent alcohol kill 99.9 percent of the bacteria on hands 30 seconds after application, and 99.99-99.999 percent in one minute, according to medical researchers.
There are several brands of hand-sanitisers currently on the market, most of which are imported. The price range from GH¢5 to GH¢25.
“Out of stock”
“On August 8 we took delivery of some 30,000 cartons of hand-sanitisers. Within 24 hours we had run out of stock. Previously, it would have taken at least three months to distribute such huge stock,” said one pharmacist who works for a renowned pharmaceutical wholesaler in Accra.
The situation at Ernest Chemists, which has both retail and wholesale divisions, was similar. Speaking to the B&FT, the company’s Distribution Manager Ebenezer Bediako said sales of such disinfectants at its retail outlets has more than quadrupled.
“Before the outbreak, we usually sold an average 2-3 bottles in a day. But now, some of our retail outlets can sell as many as 240 bottles in a 48-hour period,” he said.
At Jinlet Pharmacy in Osu, one pharmacist remarked: “We have probably sold more hand-sanitisers in the past one and half months than we would have sold in a year”.
A pharmacist at Vicdoris Pharmaceuticals, which has offices in Accra and Kumasi, also said the Ebola scare has caused an upsurge in demand for the sanitisers. “Typically, we used to sell at least 5 bottles daily. These were generally people who were health-conscious or medical professionals who came to buy. Before running out of stock, we sold about 40 within 48 hours,” he said.
The situation in the Ashanti regional capital, Kumasi, was not much different. Michael Assimeng Baffoe, Superintendent Pharmacist at the Kama Health Service (Pharmaceutical Division), told the B&FT “sales in the past have been low. The situation, however, is different now — with almost 80 percent of the people who walk into the pharmacy asking to buy a bottle of hand-sanitiser. At the moment we have even run out of stock”.
Paul Bamfo, East Cantonments Pharmacy’s Wholesale Division Manager, Kumasi, corroborated reports that the commodity’s sale has gone up tremendously, ranking first among highly-demanded products of pharmacies.
The Pharmaceutical Division of Kama Health Service in the Ashanti Region has currently run of stock, citing its suppliers’ inability to meet high demand as reason for the shortfall. At the Kwame Nkrumah Circle branch of the East Cantonments Pharmacy, the product is also out of stock after weeks of high sales.