Buyer beware: Gray market product checklist

The path a dental product takes from the manufacturer to the customer should ideally be a straight line. But when third or fourth or even fifth parties get involved, the products the customers receive may not be what they thought they were purchasing. At the very least, the lines are blurred as to whether a customer is receiving the exact product ordered. Dentists may purchase products from dealers, brokers, distributors, off the Internet and even overseas. Not every product purchased through these avenues is a noncompliant one but they’re all possible pathways for gray market items.

The path a dental product takes from the manufacturer to the customer should ideally be a straight line. But when third or fourth or even fifth parties get involved, the products the customers receive may not be what they thought they were purchasing. At the very least, the lines are blurred as to whether a customer is receiving the exact product ordered. Dentists may purchase products from dealers, brokers, distributors, off the Internet and even overseas. Not every product purchased through these avenues is a noncompliant one but they’re all possible pathways for gray market items.

In light of concerns about the effectiveness and safety of dental products sold on the gray market, it’s imperative dentists and their team members be cognizant of what they are purchasing and from whom.

The term “gray market” is a generic term that primarily refers to products that are traded or sold outside of the manufacturer’s authorized distribution channels. It’s different than the black market, where products are illegally manufactured or illegally sold.

Selling or purchasing products on the gray market isn’t necessarily illegal, but purchasers may not be getting what they paid for. For example, a supplier may buy products intended for a foreign market and then sell the product in the U.S., where it may or may not comply with U.S. laws or regulations.

Here’s a checklist of what to keep in mind before purchasing a product:
• Be cost conscious but keep in mind that cheaper is not always better. If a product is half the price than what a legitimate dealer is selling it for, that may be a red flag that it’s a gray market product.
• Call the manufacturer. They will provide information about the batch number you have in your hands and clarify any concerns.
• Go online. See what others are saying about the product and read Internet reviews. Google the company to see if there have been or are any pending lawsuits against it. Try to find customer complaints through the Better Business Bureau or another online forum.

• Talk to your peers and other respected dental suppliers. Ask what they use and if they’re satisfied.
• Look to endorsements from your local or state dental society or the ADA. They’ve already done the homework for you and sometimes offer preferred pricing for members.
• See if the product has the ADA Seal of Acceptance. Products with the ADA Seal have gone through a rigorous, independent, scientific review by the ADA Council on Scientific Affairs to ensure the products are safe and effective for their intended use.
• Purchase from a well-known, authorized distributor over a third-party. The Dental Trade Alliance recommends dentists ask the distributor if they are an authorized distributor for any particular manufacturer and their brand.
• Purchase products that have met the safety regulations set forth by the Food and Drug Administration.
• Check out the ADA Professional Product Review to see if the product has been evaluated. Visit ADA.org/ppr for more information.

3 comments

  • Great information, thanks for the share.

  • Thanks for great information. Really helpful and effective. Gray market product is exactly the same, although it may have a different model number or manuals included with it. When you buy the legitimate product from a legitimate dealer 99% of the time you are buying the product supplied through the authorized channel. These goods are genuine in that they have been manufactured by, or for or under licence from, the brand owner. Some companies do have international warranties as they know their products are sold at duty free stores around the world. Check online at the manufacturer’s website before purchasing. Good article.

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