Healthcare Industry Is Grappling with The Emergence of Counterfeit PPE in The COVID-19 Battle

Personal protective devices, constantly a crucial necessity for doctors and nurses, have ended up being something of a Holy Grail in healthcare as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to strain company resources. Hospitals are getting their collective hands-on N95 masks, dress- and other essential products any method they can, but this has opened up the door to a disturbing trend: the proliferation of fake PPE.

This represents a tough challenge when it concerns the healthcare supply chain. Historically, the supply chain has seen different stakeholders –– manufacturers, suppliers, GPOs and hospitals –, amongst others– come together to craft procedures that help guide crucial supplies to the areas that are most in need. In general terms, that work continues.

Then the coronavirus hit, and as it has made with many aspects of American life, it interrupted the supply chain. Other aspects included a growing issue. First was a midwinter spike in influenza cases. Then came a crucial lack of surgical dress due to producing issues in China. To include fuel to the fire, when COVID-19 started to spread, Asian suppliers could not get their PPE out of the region due to a sequester of those products for use in Asian countries –– highlighting an absence of varied and redundant production areas.


Cathy Denning, a Registered Nurse, and group senior vice president of sourcing operations, analytics, and center of quality at healthcare efficiency improvement business Vizient, just recently highlighted this history in a statement throughout the second part of the Senate Committee on Finance hearing on Protecting the Reliability of the U.S. Medical Supply Chain Throughout the COVID-19 Pandemic.

In her testimony, Denning included another important detail: Practically overnight, hospitals were utilizing about 10 times their normal amount of PPE products, and as much as 15 times the normal quantity of N95 respirators in the hardest-hit areas. While previously these items were utilized just for recognized infectious respiratory diseases throughout surgery, healthcare facilities were now utilizing them as universal precautions for all clients.

This produced a perfect storm, enabling deceitful actors to operate in a “gray market” selling counterfeit products to strapped hospitals.

“A number of the senators kept asking me if the administration could have done more,” stated Denning. “My answer was, ‘Yes, everyone might have done more.’ On a go-forward basis, we require to determine how to support the stockpile and deal with the economic sector on how we’re going to handle that stockpile and how to move forward long-term.

“The supply chain in basic needs to be more resilient,” she said. “We need more redundancy. We need it to be transparent to the personal sector. There’s a push to move whatever to the personal sector. At the end of the day, we need to make certain that we have a broadened domestic footprint.”

In basic terms, the gray market for PPE emerges when health centers buy items at a reduced rate and after that resell them. They’re offering authentic items, however, dubious companies have moved fake items through these brokers.

Early in the pandemic, Vizient set up a “war room” to ensure quick reactions to queries from member medical facilities. Numerous of the initial inquiries were demands to vet products that hospitals were considering acquiring from nontraditional makers or brokers and to offer a skilled viewpoint on whether an offered product was the real article.

In mid-March, these product-vetting demands began to ramp up. What Denning and her team discovered was that a lot of these requests were duplicates, either since the same broker had connected to several organizations, or since the brokers were declaring to have products from the same initial producers.

For instance, the war space team got 39 submissions claiming to be from brokers representing a product from a single production website in China. The website is indeed a genuine maker, but the brokers were declaring the producer could supply members with extra items ranging from gloves to surgical masks and gowns. There were no such gadget listings with the FDA. At least 26 brokers declared to have access to this manufacturer’s items.


Counterfeit products have been a problem even at venerable organizations. Affirming before the Senate committee, Denning said that Yale-New Haven Health in Connecticut ended up being mindful in March that they may have come into possession of fake Dasheng KN95 respirators. The fake respirators had come from contributions, and at the very same time, the medical facility had open orders for more –– orders they subsequently canceled.

“Counterfeited products frequently have ear loops,” Denning said. “By itself that does not imply it’s fake, however when you put them on you can tell– you can see through them. Yale-New Haven, when they sent it out for testing, they did not satisfy the test that was required for an N95. Some said the masks were gray and didn’t have good elastics. They were superglued on there as opposed to being mechanically bonded.”

Later on, Yale found that the majority of their PPE suppliers weren’t dealing straight with Chinese factories, however rather third-party distributors or gray market brokers. On the other hand, Yale found that lots of suppliers had sent out incorrect test results, spurring the healthcare facility to send a few of their respirators to a third-party screening lab. The decision: The respirators were only 85% efficient.

That suggests that counterfeit products have the potential to put clients and doctors in harm’s method.

“Masks are a huge one and dress,” stated Denning. “Many don’t filter out particle matter the way you think it does, and it leaves workers open to being infected.

“In the past, fake items made their way into the supply chain, but it was an unusual, uncommon incident,” she said. “We had surgical masks that made it into the supply chain, for instance, that were counterfeit. I saw the items, but that was when in a decade. It was intriguing to see how rapidly the counterfeiters have turned up.”

In the second example of unscrupulous profiteering, a regional acute care center in Florida recently engaged with a broker to secure N95 respirators that were supposedly manufactured by 3M. The healthcare facility’s internal evaluation process identified that the broker was not in fact licensed to offer the masks and, on that basis, decided not to contract for the items. They did, nevertheless, have an additional purchase pending for masks, the delivery of which was continuously delayed. This raised issue at their bank that the activity was possibly deceptive, and the health center –– which has currently received some –– canceled the remainder of their order and had the ability to recover the cash. However, they wound up losing out on two different deliveries of urgently required items.

While the frequency of counterfeiters has started to ebb rather, it still represents an issue for an industry that has made PPE a top-shelf top priority throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Some practices will likely continue after the worst has passed, which makes neutralizing the gray market vital. Medical facilities have started to restore elective surgeries in fits and begin, however clients are trepidatious due to safety issues, which are continuing to have deep monetary effects for the market.

“Before the AIDS epidemic, we never used gloves to draw blood,” stated Denning. “Now everyone does. It’s just a universal safety measure. You imitate everyone has a blood-borne illness. Healthcare facilities are now using what they think about to be equivalent to universal precautions. Some are checking patients before they can be found. Some clients are given the COVID ward and kept away from the basic population of the health center. There are emerging practices in how they’re using PPE, and how they’re treating their patients.

“We discovered ourselves, as a market and a federal government, flat-footed,” she said. “We didn’t get here overnight, however, we need to bring that strength to the healthcare supply chain.”

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