Buyer Beware

By Laura Thill

In today’s online world, the gray market has taken a new turn

From composites and cements to adhesives and impression materials, the gray market continues to be a concern for dental providers. Indeed, the FDA and the ADA first addressed this issue as far back as 2011, according to Lincolnwood, Illinois-based Sheri Doniger, DDS. But, as more clinicians purchase supplies online, and more products are sold outside of the normal supply or distribution chain, “the gray market has taken a new turn,” she notes. And, while the list of potentially compromised supplies is “endless,” she points out that products sold in bulk quantities, and placed in tubes and tubs with similar labels, are particularly at risk. “Clinicians may be looking for a bargain, but as the old adage goes, buyer beware!”

Looks are deceiving
“The safety of equipment and materials we use is paramount,” says Doniger. When clinicians are unsure of where products originate, it presents a safety issue, she explains. Especially when products are packaged to look like a leading brand, it can be confusing, she adds. But, unlike brand name products that are manufactured according to strict standards and precise formulations, gray market products are unverified, she says.

“Purity and manufacturing control issues impact products that may eventually be in a patient’s mouth for a very long time,” Doniger continues. “Products sold in the United States are manufactured with a high level of rigor for safety. We are not aware of the exacting standards with gray market products. There are risks that these products were purchased in bulk, and their true expiration date may be unknown. The storage of the products (temperature, humidity or lighting) is a mystery. They may be completely counterfeit. All of these issues may negatively affect a product’s functionality and, in turn, deleteriously affect the health and safety of our patients.”

The rep’s role
Distributor sales reps provide a value-added service by reminding their dental customers to purchase their products from dependable sources. “Sales reps can discuss the importance of always purchasing products from reputable dealers,” says Doniger. “They should remind clinicians to always vet new distributors directly with the manufacturer. And, first and foremost, they should work with a distributor they trust.”

In Doniger’s experience, distributor sales reps work with their clients to help them find the best price – and the best product. It’s important that clinicians not have unrealistic expectations, she notes. A 40 percent markdown is not going to happen. “But the bottom line is, our patients’ safety should always come first.”

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