Last month, the Dermatologic Surgery journal published a report that—even though the majority of providers believe they pose a big threat to patient safety—counterfeit medical devices and injectables may be more prevalent than most patients think.
According to the survey, “out of the 765 respondents, 37.4 percent had encountered counterfeit medical devices, with 49.4 percent reporting being solicited to purchase them. Additionally, 41.1 percent of the 616 respondents to the survey about counterfeit injectables had encountered counterfeit injectables; 56.5 percent reported being solicited to purchase them, and 10.2 percent actually purchased them, while 79.3 percent did so unknowingly.”
While Eugene, OR plastic surgeon Mark Jewell, MD wasn’t necessarily surprised by the numbers, he does offer this succinct advice: “For patients seeking cosmetic injectables, be sure to ask if your injector is buying from a legitimate source and distribution channel their injectables.”
Beyond asking questions, Studio City, CA dermatologist Gene Rubinstein, MD puts the responsibility on the patient—and stresses it’s smart to turn to the digital detective of the internet before considering any sort of aesthetics treatment, and that includes anything device-related as well.
“The most important advice is to do your research! Google the laser treatment with the device name and if your provider is the only one that offers that service, it’s time to question it.”
As Dr. Rubinstein explains, laser companies in particular, go through extensive FDA process approvals and therefore, sell their devices to hundreds of providers, usually physician practices. “Any legitimate device will have many providers across the world offering the service. Even though providers may customize their protocols or treatments, the equipment is the same.”
Similar to Dr. Jewell’s recommendation, Dr. Rubinstein’s second piece of advice is to know your provider: “Medical practices or even medical spas that are run by board-certified dermatologists and board-certified plastic surgeons are most often your safest option. There are lots of other medical provides that perform services, so research your provider of care and remember these are medical services and may carry real medical complications. Make sure your provider is able to handle complications should they occur.”
Facial plastic surgeon Dover, OH David Hartman, MD says he’s happy to report that, so far, bogus aesthetic products have not reached his rural Midwest practice, but his guidance is similar: “My advice to patients who wish to avoid counterfeit treatments and products is steer clear of ‘cosmetic practices’ that do not display credentials of board-certification in facial plastic surgery, plastic surgery or dermatology.”
Likewise, Newport Beach, CA plastic surgeon Sanjay Grover, MD hasn’t experienced counterfeits at his practice—but predicts it is something that may pop up more frequently in the near future.
“Patients can protect themselves by seeing a known entity/physician with a strong reputation of providing excellent care and services to their patients,” he says. “I imagine this could potentially be something that we should prepare ourselves for. Given that so many products have counterfeits, it seems likely that we will see counterfeits in the aesthetic space.”
“And last, ask if you can participate in manufacturers rewards programs such as Brilliant Distinction (now Alle) or Aspire Rewards,” Dr. Rubinstein recommends. “Providers that purchase their fillers and neuromodulators from the manufacturer will have access to these nationwide programs that earn rewards for services. This is also a great way to distinguish your provider as to their status within the aesthetic marketplace.”
After 26 years in practice, New York facial plastic surgeon John Kang, MD says he has pretty much seen everything you can imagine and, while he can’t comment on the prevalence of counterfeit devices and injectables, he knows it’s not uncommon.
“Just because someone else raves about place that provides injection and lasers, always do your due diligence before visiting the facility,” he advises. “When it comes to medical devices, select only from a list of board-certified physicians included in the directory provided by the manufacturer of the device. This provides the best assurance that the medical device being used on you is the genuine device—be wary of practitioners offering medical devices without being on the directory list as provided by the manufacturer website.”
“When it comes to medical injectables, you can simply ask your physician if the injectable is being sold to you is being obtained directly from the manufacture using a local sales representative,” he adds. “Avoid physicians who purchase the injectable from a third party or from a source outside the country to avoid any chance of receiving counterfeit products.”