Soap Box Blog

Antibacterials kill no more germs than plain old soap and water

Date: November 30, 2011

WASHINGTON - Popular antibacterial soaps and washes offer no more protection
than regular soap and water, a federal advisory panel said Thursday, telling companies
to prove their products are better if they expect to continue making claims to the public.

The independent expert panel, which advises the Food and Drug Administration, said by an 11-1 vote that it saw no added benefits to antibacterials when compared with soapy handwashing.

Panelists also said soaps that use synthetic chemicals – as do many products which
claim to eliminate 99 percent of germs they encounter – could contribute to the growth
of bacteria resistant to antibiotics.

Those risks, coupled with a lack of demonstrated benefits compared with soap and
water, raised the prospect of new limits on an industry that has grown astronomically
in the past decade.

The experts did not vote to recommend that the FDA take any specific regulatory
action against antibacterials, but did urge the agency to study the products’ risks
versus benefits.

“There’s no evidence they are a good value,” Dr. Alastair Wood, chairman of the Non-prescription Drugs Advisory Committee, said after the meeting.

Panelist Dr. Mary E. Tinetti said unless antibacterials can show some added benefit,
“I think we’re seeing a lot of sentiment against (antibacterials) being marketed to
the consumer.”

The FDA is not bound by the decisions of its advisory panels, but often follows their advice. The agency has the authority to add warning labels.

Representatives of the soap industry say antibacterials are safe and more effective
than regular soap, although they provided little data to support that assertion.


By John  J. Lumpkin
The Associated Press