When a coronavirus pandemic is underway globally and there’s a widespread and shortage of life-saving hand sanitizer, companies of all types and in all sectors have jumped swiftly into action to do what they can to provide help at a critical time. However, the from-scratch fast and furious effort achieved by HR Pharmaceuticals, York, PA, may be one for the record books. With the invaluable help of C-P Flexible Packaging (CPF), the pharma company accelerated from a standing start in late March to filling unit-dose packets of self-made hand sanitizer 10 days later. That record-busting turnaround is made even more amazing when you consider that the pharmaceuticals company had not made sanitizer before. Setting the humanitarian effort in motion was Colby Wiesman, president of HR Pharmaceuticals, who responded to the nationwide shortage of hand sanitizer. Although the company had not had any experience making or packaging hand sanitizer, Wiesman knew that its ultrasound gels have a consistency similar to hand sanitizer gels. He had a simple, but strong motivation: Wanting to help. Wiesman quickly set out to mass produce hand sanitizer gel and provide it to various groups within the local community that were in desperate need of the product. A few things had to happen quickly, and they did. First, HR Pharmaceuticals’ product development and sourcing teams swiftly came together to bring the idea to fruition. Although the alcohol needed to produce hand sanitizer was in short supply, the company managed to overcome this obstacle and rapidly pull together all of the raw materials needed to mass produce hand sanitizer gel thanks to Suite-K based in New York City. Notably, while HR Pharma had experience with flexibles before, it had not worked with C-P Flexible Packaging, the converter’s Director of Marketing Amanda Dahlby tells Packaging Digest. That was surprising because both companies have operations in York, PA, which is a highly fortuitous and perhaps necessary proximity given the timeframe. A flexible solution is logical. HR Pharmaceuticals needed a format they could package safely and get the hand sanitizer literally into as many hands as possible and in expedited fashion. Knowing that hand sanitizer is generally produced in large bottles or packages, Wiesman figured the sanitizer would be widely distributed to more people if packaged in single-use flexible packets rather than multi-use bottles. “As you may know, there is a big shortage of alcohol, so if we're filling into a 32-ounce bottle, it gets into your house, but it doesn't get into everybody else's," he says. "This is a great opportunity of producing single-use packets where they can be widely distributed." He also felt that single-use packets would also eliminate any potential for cross-contamination. It’s a format that hits the sweet spot for the company, which packages lubricants in tubes and packets for personal and medical/surgical use. That’s when HR Pharma reached out to C-P Flexible Packaging’s Clark, VP of sales. Clark immediately gained the full support of the converter. The customer created and delivered graphics for the new hand sanitizer packets in one day, and C-P Flexible Packaging expediently delivered first order of printed rollstock. Packaging Digest is told that the supplier had the raw materials on-hand, a 2.25-mil lamination with moisture and oxygen barrier properties that is also designed to seal through contamination. It was 10 days from Wiesman’s first contact with C-P Flexible Packaging that his company started packaging the gel. Each packet holds 3 grams of hand sanitizer, and HR Pharmaceuticals is filling from 4 to 6 million packets weekly for six weeks on vertical form-fill-seal machinery at the York facility. In addition to making this product available for sale through the national medical distribution network, the product is being donated to local front-line workers like police departments, fire stations, EMTs, prisons, courthouses, and more. Says Wiesman, “We are constantly pursuing opportunities that do good for the community, doctors and patients we serve while doing good for our business and associates. We were thankful that C-P Flexible Packaging bent over backwards to help us get the product into the literal hands of those who need it, with lead times that are unheard of in this industry. Seeing our internal associates and external partners come together for this noble project has been one of the greatest joys of my professional career.” This story may not end. Even as the planned six-week production run winds down, HR Pharmaceuticals is considering adding hand sanitizer to its standard portfolio, according to C-P Flexible Packaging’s Dahlby. To read more, visit Packaging Digest's archived listing of COVID-19 articles.