Two dental professionals, Simon Hearne, international vice president of 3M ESPE Dental, and Tim Rogan, vice president of marketing and merchandise for Patterson Dental, speak about gray market dental products.
HEARNE:The Dental Trade Alliance recently hosted an event called “The Dilemma and Impact of Gray Market Product Sales” where I was invited to speak alongside representatives from the American Dental Association and the Dental Industry Association of Canada. It’s an important time for all of us in the industry to pay attention to this issue because gray market products have the potential to damage reputations not only for manufacturers and distributors but also individual dentists. Here are some facts to keep in mind about this issue:
1. “Gray market” = sold through an unsecured supply chain.
HEARNE: There are a variety of products that fall under the gray market umbrella, but what they have in common is that they are sold through an unauthorized supply chain. What this means is that even if the products are authentic (and they may not be), there is no guarantee that they have been shipped or stored correctly or that they have not been relabeled to conceal they are past the expiration date.
2. Gray market products are more prevalent than you might think.
HEARNE: It’s of course hard to pin down statistics about the scope of the problem, but the World Health Organization has estimated more than 8 percent of the global drug market was made up of counterfeit products in 2010, and this was to increase by 50 percent in 2014. This statistic encompasses much more than dental products, but it underscores the scale of the global issue. In the UK alone, the Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Agency seized more than 12,000 pieces of illegal dental equipment in just a six-month period in 2014.
3. The further you are from your office’s purchasing, the more wary you should be.
HEARNE: Working in a group practice or chain clinic can take a lot of tasks off your shoulders, but it can also remove you from important decision-making processes. When the person in charge of ordering supplies gets an order from the corporate office to shave costs, he or she may turn to the gray market-inadvertently or not-to save a little money. This person is likely not clinically experienced and will not have to use the products him or herself. Therefore, the consequences of the bad purchasing decisions are far removed from the person making them. This can enable the situation to continue longer than it might in a smaller office where the dentist is able to communicate directly with the purchasing agent and has more power over which products are used.
4. You CAN protect yourself.
HEARNE: The gray market can seem like an intractable problem, but the truth is that for the everyday dental office, there are very simple ways to protect yourself: Only buy products from manufacturers’ authorized distribution channels and always vet new dealers that solicit your office. If you have a question about whether a distributor is approved by a manufacturer, you should contact the manufacturer directly to ask. The gravity of this issue means that manufacturers are very motivated to get the word out about their authorized distributors, so if you cannot find the information easily on the manufacturer’s website, you should call its customer service line.
The bottom line is that gray market products put patient safety at risk, and it is up to the entire industry-manufacturers, distributors and individual dentists, like you-to do their part to keep patients safe. By working together, we can all help protect the integrity of the industry that we’ve worked so hard to build.
Read Rogan's tips on Page 2 ...
1. Some of our readers may not understand the impact of gray market on the industry. From your perspective, why is it so detrimental?
Rogan: We firmly believe that gray market dental products and materials may jeopardize the health and safety of dental patients.
Select manufacturers, distributors and industry professionals are raising concerns about this unintended distribution channel because products purchased through the “gray market” (which, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, generally refers to products sold outside the established supply chain, typically at a deeply discounted price), in addition to being unsafe, may also threaten the reputations of dentists and businesses that use them.
We have found that frequently, dental professionals may actually be unaware a gray market even exists or that dental products, unknowingly purchased by them through these gray market distributors, are past their expiration date, have been recalled or fall short of industry and government standards.
2. What is the biggest thing dental professionals need to know about gray market goods?
Rogan: We want dental professionals to be aware the gray market exists and products purchased through this channel are making their way into dental offices and, ultimately, into the mouths of patients. By ordering directly from the manufacturers and their authorized distributors, dental professionals can be assured the products they’re bringing into their practice are legitimate and were intended to be placed in their offices at the time of purchase.
3. Is this something that has increased in recent months or years?
Rogan: The Internet and online purchasing have provided even more opportunities for gray market products to enter the marketplace than in the past, and we believe it is likely that growth in the gray market in recent years may be attributable to these alternative channels.
4. Why is now the right time for Patterson to launch this initiative?
Rogan: The time is right for Patterson Dental to take a public leadership role because it is an issue that affects our entire industry. We believe problems will continue to arise at an even more frequent pace if the industry does not properly and quickly address the gray market.
We have developed an educational campaign to help protect dentists and their patients from purchasing or using potentially unsafe gray market dental products. Our website, located at dentalsupplyintegrity.com, contains information on issues surrounding gray market dental supplies, including ways to help purchasers more easily identify these products and why products should only be purchased from a supplier purchasers know and trust.
We believe helping to ensure the dental supply chain’s integrity is the right thing to do for our customers, their patients and our industry.