A pharmacist in Leicester has defended the decision to sell hand sanitiser for £10 a bottle, insisting the high pricing is ‘out of his control’ in the wake of the hysteria surrounding coronavirus.  

Howitt’s Pharmacy, in Leicester, faced a backlash from its customers after it started selling its hand sanitiser for £10 for a 500ml bottle.

Superintendent pharmacist director, Atim Patel, told The Pharmacist, the high price was due to the struggle he was facing to purchase the bottles from his wholesaler during the coronavirus outbreak.

He explained that the price was ’out of his control’, and was ‘a direct result of the market right now.’

The Pharmacist revealed on Friday that at least four pharmaceutical wholesalers had run out of supplies of hand sanitiser indefinitely, leaving community pharmacies unable to get stocks. 

The brand of the medical-grade hand sanitiser being sold at the pharmacy was the same as that used in hospitals and surgeries and bought from a specialist supplier, Mr Patel said.

‘It is costing us around £7 to buy a bottle in - but we’re continuing to buy it because its what our patients want,’ he said. 

He told The Pharmacist that he'd had some ‘grumbling’ from patients over the cost after he started advertising it in his shop window.

But he said that he wasn’t making any extra profit on the sales, and instead was actually making less money than before: ‘We’re currently only making a 10% profit on our hand sanitizer whereas we usually make anywhere between a 20-25% profit, so we’re losing out,’ he said. 

Mr Patel said that despite the high price and criticism, they had sold quite a few of the products.

Howitt’s Pharmacy used to sell hand sanitiser for £2.99 until they were unable to get hold of it. Amazon is now selling the same sized product for up to £30. 

Mr Patel also reported the prices of some common drugs had soured in recent weeks, including paracetamol and many antibiotics such as metronidazole. 

It comes as the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) called on retailers last week to ‘behave responsibly’ and not increase prices during the coronavirus outbreak.

It stressed that it was considering any evidence that companies may have broken competition or consumer protection law, for example by charging excessive prices, and it would be taking 'direct enforcement action' if appropriate.

It also said it would be assessing whether it should advise the government to consider taking direct action to regulate prices.