Red Flags to Avoid PPE Scams

Distributors, manufacturers, and healthcare providers all have a role in fighting PPE fraud

A year into the pandemic, the problem of counterfeit personal protective equipment persists, engineered by opportunistic vendors and profiteers taking advantage of the lengthy spike in demand. HIDA recently hosted a webinar, “Working with Your Supply Chain Partners to Avoid PPE Scams” to identify how distributors, manufacturers, and providers can all work together to combat fraud.

The presenters from 3M Healthcare, Medline Industries, and Sri Trang USA emphasized the importance of working with authorized, established distributors and original equipment manufacturers to ensure FDA-approved, quality medical products flow through the supply chain for optimum patient care. If the offer seems too good to be true, it is too good to be true. Here are key takeaways.

How distributors help

Distributors have been deluged with offers from unfamiliar brokers and vendors. In response, they have been using every tool available to meet the increased need.

  • Identifying appropriate product substitutions when available
  • Expediting shipping and delivery to hot spots
  • Coordinating with current suppliers to ramp up production
  • Vetting and onboarding new suppliers
  • Using allocation systems to conserve inventory and maximize product
  • Maintaining stockpiles

How manufacturers help

They manage supply and provide alternatives through short- and long-term strategic planning.


  • Reaching out to distributors to understand current challenges
  • Reducing supply chain complexity (such as modifying a product so that it ships easier)
  • Reducing niche products (do you really need that grape-flavored glove?)
  • Suggest alternatives (innovative or nascent products)


  • Expanding or modernizing facilities
  • Diversifying raw material sources
  • Educating and raising awareness (seminars, social media campaigns)
  • Engaging with regulators and standards organizations

How providers help

Healthcare providers can keep an open line of communication with their trusted distributor partners to help identify and solve pressing challenges created by COVID-19. The panelists recommended ways providers can be a positive part of a resilient supply chain.

  • Being flexible
  • Being open to evaluating product alternatives (For example, a new generation of latex gloves as a substitute for nitrile)
  • Focusing on critical product requirements
  • Recognizing the downsides of large stockpiles (puts products needed on the front lines onto back shelves)

The full webinar recording is available in the Events + Education section of HIDA’s website,

Unfamiliar sources may not offer vetted product

 Unfamiliar SuppliersDistributors
PriceOne-time deals for the highest pricePrices based on long-term relationships and contracts with manufacturers and healthcare providers
SafetyNo guarantee that manufacturers were vetted or that brokers have experience in healthcare supplySourced from vetted and FDA-approved manufacturers
QualityOnly negotiate, with no guarantees of product delivery or conditionTake possession and ownership of products and deliver to
healthcare provider
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