Monday, October 25, 2021

Counterfeit Nitrile Gloves have made Their Way into the U.S. Supply Chain

 Wherever there is a crisis and whenever human suffering occurs there will always be the lowest of the low working to make a profit from those situations.  In late spring of 2020 I was made aware of several situations where healthcare facilities or groups had made large orders of N-95 equivalent masks from overseas.  When the products arrived, they were in packaging from well known and reputable companies.  However, even though the masks looked legitimate, they were anything but.

Analysis by reputable third party labs in the U.S. revealed the masks to be counterfeit and worthless.  This didn't happen once, no unfortunately it happened many times.  The money paid to the companies that supplied the masks was lost and the legitimate manufacturers whose packaging was forged also suffered from the bad publicity even though they had done nothing wrong.

Now, comes word via an investigation from CNN that a scandal has rocked the nitrite glove market.

A quick primer for any of you reading this who do not have a healthcare background.  Gloves became a required part of PPE protocol for dentistry in the 80s.  From that point until the early 2000s, the most common type of glove was latex.  They were practical, had good dexterity, and were plentiful to obtain.  However, as latex became more and more common in healthcare, more and more people developed allergies to the substance through environmental contact.  As the allergies became more and more common healthcare began to more away from latex and to utilize nitrile instead.

Nitrile is a synthetic rubber that is bit more expensive than latex, but offers the same advantages.  I switched my office from latex to nitrile due to the risk of patients or staff having anaphylactic reactions to latex and also because I felt that nitrile actually provided better tactile sensation.  Then in 2016 the FDA banned powdered latex gloves in healthcare.  This meant that the demand for latex gloves dropped while demand for nitrile increased proportionately.

Fast forward to 2020 and the onslaught of SARS-Cov-2.  The pandemic dramatically increased the demand for gloves and the market struggled under that demand.  There was also the strain put on the supply chain as businesses were shut down due to the pandemic.  I heard stories of some glove factories being temporarily closed due to the pandemic.  So, as we were seeing an increased demand for nitrile gloves the manufacturing piece of the supply chain was not able to meet demand.

This lack of supply and increased demand opened the door for criminals and scammers who were only too happy to try and make money from the situation.  These situations exist in almost all aspects of our society, but there is something really awful about people not only unethically stealing, but also putting the welfare of others at risk at the same time.

CNN is reporting that criminals have setup companies that attempt to clean or color used medical gloves and resell them as new to unsuspecting U.S. distributors.  They try to wash the gloves or re-dye them by trying to use food coloring.  Some U.S. distributors have opened boxes to find gloves that are torn or even stained by blood.  The companies doing this have demanded payment in advance so U.S. distributors are out the money... sometimes millions of dollars.

I would expect this to become a pretty big story, at least in healthcare circles.  You can read the entire story at the CNN link.

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