Oh, sorry. I did mute myself.
My name is Jean-Philippe Gentès. I'm a pharmacist by trade. I am also a pharmaceutical entrepreneur. Since 2006, I've been the owner and operator of three businesses that employ 210 people. All businesses are located in Saint-Hyacinthe, Quebec, Canada.
I am in the field of pharmaceutical chemical distribution and importation of materials and medical devices, and I also now manufacture hand sanitizers. I also own a compounding pharmacy from which we service pharmacies throughout the province of Quebec and hospitals throughout Canada. We prepare ready-to-use drugs for them that the pharmaceutical industry cannot manufacture, for various reasons. I am also in the field of injectable drugs and biological injectable drug manufacturing.
I would say that COVID-19 put a lot of pressure on the supply chain and the manufacturers of medical supplies and drugs. When it comes to medical devices, glove deliveries from regular manufacturers have been constantly delayed and pushed back. Also, we've seen important price increases in most of the personal protective equipment in the past few months. I would say it's something ranging from 25% to 200%.
Although we've seen good intentions and a nice opportunity given by the Canadian government to allow more manufacturing of hand sanitizers, I would say that a lot of those companies out there are not from the pharmaceutical world. Thus, today they are not respecting the basic regulations on natural product manufacturing. I think this could lead to poor quality and substandard product being available on the market that could cause certain risks to Canadians.
I'd also like to take some time to raise a concern about the technical-grade alcohol that is being used today in the manufacture of certain hand sanitizers available on the market. As the committee might know, technical-grade alcohol contains a lot of impurities, higher than the normal acceptable grade of alcohol that is being used for the manufacturing of hand sanitizers. Sometimes we're talking about 100 times over the regular grade. I'm thinking mainly about acetaldehyde. This has been evaluated by a task force from Health Canada. Despite the fact they're looking at the worst-case scenario, they say the concentration of acetaldehyde that is present in the product can increase the cancer risk from both dermal and inhalation exposure when applying hand sanitizers, and this should not be considered negligible.
Basically, they consider that the risk for the short term is okay under the COVID-19 circumstances, but today I would say that with the pandemic coming more and more under control, there should be a reconsideration of this policy. Although price-wise I think there's an incentive for manufacturing to use technical-grade alcohol—because it sells for one-third to one-half of the price of the acceptable pharmaceutical grade ethanol—I think the low price of technical-grade alcohol should not be a justification to continue using such a product.
Also, I'd like to take some time to discuss manufacturing sustainability.
I think that COVID-19 was a big eye-opener for all of us. During the past years, we lost a considerable number of manufacturing sites in Canada in the health care environment. Long-term lowest-bidder policies have had several important side effects on the health of our manufacturing system. Low prices encourage the use of product manufactured outside of Canada, where labour is cheaper and where quality could not always be at the same level as Canadian standards. Is it normal to pay more for a bottle of water than an injectable dose of a vital product? Is it normal that we pay more for Smarties than pills?
I think the lowest-bidder strategy led to decreasing product quality, lower investment in plant equipment and quality, and plant closures. This had important side effects—