Local business steps up to help
The coronavirus has presented communities across the United States with a host of problems, including shortages of items like hand sanitizer. Stores are sold out, hospitals have resorted to rationing medical supplies, and hand sanitizer has become a precious commodity.
While some companies are using the crisis to make a profit, one Whitehall pharmacist, Rikin Patel, Pharm.D., decided to use his resources to help others. Patel and his staff are compounding hand sanitizer to give to police officers, firefighters, first responders and medical staff — free of charge.
“The FDA released a statement for emergency compounding, and a lot of pharmacies are either doing nothing, which is not good, or they’re selling the product, which is fine, but we wanted to take it a step further and give it out to people who have always taken care of us,” Patel said. “Why not take care of them for a change? So that’s kind of what we wanted to do to support our community.”
The hand sanitizer is relatively simple to make. It consists of alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, distilled water, glycerin and tea tree oil to lessen the strong smell of the alcohol.
Creating the sanitizer is expensive, especially since overnight shipping for the bottles can cost as much as $1,000.
“It’s something we need to do,” Patel said. “I was hoping by doing this and getting this out there that other pharmacies would step up and do the same, or at least send help.”
Patel believes health professionals should be helping health professionals. Hospitals have been asking him for quantities in the hundreds to supply emergency rooms.
“We’re doing what we can, and we’re going to make 2,000. After that, we’re hoping that other people step in — bigger companies,” Patel said.
Patel is having difficulty finding alcohol and bottles, though one local police force is working to get more spray bottles for him. He is also working with agencies to get access to more alcohol.
Though Whitehall Pharmacy and its sister store, Zephyr Pharmacy, are small, Patel has found this has had a positive impact on the customers, with whom he has a close relationship. They are more likely to listen to Patel when he tells them to stay at home, and the pharmacy offers home delivery twice a day so the most vulnerable don’t have to come to the store.
Patel reads articles to stay up to date on what medication shortages to expect, so he can try to keep them in stock.
“I do have some patients and some doctors that are calling for something like Plaquenil (Hydroxychloroquine). We do have some of it available,” he said.
Plaquenil is an anti-malaria drug also used to treat certain autoimmune diseases, such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. It has been suggested this drug could be helpful in treating COVID-19 patients, though research is ongoing.
Patel is receiving positive feedback for his efforts through the pharmacy’s Facebook page and the NextDoor app.
“The community is really happy that we’re jumping in,” Patel said.
Whitehall Pharmacy is located at 4117 Main St., Egypt, and the phone number is 610-440-6337. Patel requests emergency personnel needing hand sanitizer call ahead.
Store hours are 8 a.m.-7 p.m. Mondays-Fridays, 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturdays and 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Sundays.