FDA: Antibacterial soaps should be avoided

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Certain chemicals in these products have little science to back up their effectiveness; could do more harm than good

FDA announced that it will not allow manufacturers of antibacterial hand soaps and body washes to market products that contain certain active ingredients.

The agency has banned 19 ingredients in these products including triclosan and triclocarban—the two most commonly used ingredients.

Cristina Whalen Klafehn, PharmD, BCPS, CDE, FDA’s health programs coordinator, said in an e-mail interview that emerging research shows that some antibacterial ingredients could pose health risks in people.

“Short-term animal studies suggest that daily exposure to high doses of triclosan resulted in decreases in some thyroid hormone levels, the significance of which in humans is currently unknown,” she said.

The threat of antibiotic resistance also looms large, and Klafehn said FDA is aware of the continued need to evaluate it.

Products containing the 19 banned active ingredients will be phased out. FDA said manufacturers will have one year to comply with the final rule by reformulating or removing their products from the market. Some manufacturers have already begun to do so.

Most hand soaps or body wash products labeled “antibacterial” or “antimicrobial” contain at least one of the 19 antibacterial ingredients listed in the final rule. Klafehn said some products labeled “deodorant” may also contain these ingredients.

FDA is relying on its website, specifically the Consumer Updates page of www.fda.gov, to inform the public about the rule.

From there, consumers can consult the Drug Facts box or ingredient label on products to see if it contains one of the 19 active ingredients.

“Pharmacists should be prepared to council consumers on how to read labels to determine the ingredients in the over-the-counter products they use,” said Klafehn.

FDA wants to remind people that washing is still important but that washing with plain soap and running water is the best way to avoid getting sick and preventing the spread of germs.

Visit www.pharmacytoday.org for the full article in the upcoming November 2016 issue of Pharmacy Today.

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