The Covid-19 pandemic has given rise to fraudulent suppliers selling counterfeit PPE products in an effort to exploit the crisis, according to MedTech Europe.

The trade association said the demand for protective equipment like masks, gloves and gowns has “skyrocketed” since the initial outbreak of the virus – and subsequent “panic buying” increases the risk of purchasers falling victim to fraud.

MedTech Europe also claimed several of its member companies that produce PPE have received reports of fraudulently-labelled counterfeit products being offered for sale, fake documents being presented as proof of regulatory compliance, and fraudulent websites that appear “very similar” to those of reputable manufacturers.

It has therefore recommended that PPE buyers pay attention to the reliability of sales channels and producers to reduce the risk of acquiring items that do not meet the required safety and performance standards to reduce transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

The association – which represents numerous medical device and diagnostics firms operating across Europe including Philips, Medtronic and Johnson & Johnson – said that if buyers are suspicious of fraudulent activity they should contact the manufacturer directly to certify the products they are being offered are genuine.

In a statement released on 29 October, MedTech Europe said: “MedTech Europe denounces practices that jeopardise the safety and performance of protective equipment, and any fraudulent activities.

“Protective equipment is essential in fighting the Covid-19 pandemic, and MedTech Europe’s members work relentlessly to ensure the supply of PPE and medical devices that protect the user, and the patient, against health and safety risks.

“To ensure due diligence and security of the supply chains, MedTech Europe encourages companies to take all necessary steps to help prevent counterfeit or substandard products from getting into the supply chains.

“In the case of imported products, it is particularly important that importers and distributors verify the documentation accompanying the products.”

Earlier this month, the US CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) released a similar warning regarding counterfeit respirator masks, and said it would make buyers and manufacturers aware of any products falsely claiming to have gained NIOSH (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health) approval.