Grey market products - Are you covered? - Hamilton Fraser


When you take out any insurance policy, it is vital to make sure that you are not accidentally invalidating your cover or worse, putting a patient at risk, as a result of a genuine error. At Hamilton Fraser Cosmetic Insurance, we aim to raise awareness of some of the oversights that aesthetic practitioners sometimes make which may inadvertently invalidate their insurance and cause harm to their customers. One of these is grey market products – a growing problem in the UK as sellers of beauty and aesthetic products are increasingly turning to sites such as Amazon and eBay to tempt customers with heavy discounts on seemingly genuine products.

In this article, we clarify what a grey product is and explore how you can make sure you are covered.

What is a grey market product

Grey market products are legitimate products that have been manufactured by an approved company but have been sold outside authorised distribution channels. The main issue with using grey market products is the fact that the origin and distribution journey cannot be sufficiently traced. As a result, there is no reliable information on the storage conditions of the products – they may be defective, damaged, compromised or even out of date – which poses a significant risk to a patient receiving treatments using these products.

Due to the growing popularity of cosmetic surgery, it might seem tempting to bulk buy products at a discount from an unrecognised source. However, under no circumstance should these products be used on patients.

It is incredibly important to ensure that quality and standards are maintained at all times through not only using reputable manufacturers but also making sure that you are purchasing them from an authorised distributor.

Legitimate products will be accompanied by a product sticker, which should be stuck onto a patient’s notes to make sure that there are clear and precise records. As the age old saying goes, if a deal seems to be too good to be true, then it probably is.

Do we cover grey market products?

“It is important to ensure that all products have been sourced from reputable and listed suppliers and at Hamilton Fraser we would be unable to cover any practitioner that performed cosmetic procedures using unauthorised products. For example, in the case of Botox all injections must contain botulinum toxin from a listed supplier and carry the CE mark. We would not be able to approve anything that doesn’t comply with these criteria. We carry out careful checks when we add new fillers onto policies and our underwriting criteria.”

- Emma Bracchi, Senior Claims Technician at Hamilton Fraser

In the event of a claim, insurers will require proof of manufacturer and the batch code of the product; in some cases, a purchase invoice may also be requested. If it transpires that the product is not purchased from a reputable supplier, the claim can be repudiated and the policy may even be cancelled, as the policyholder has violated the policy conditions whereby it is necessary for all products to carry the CE mark. For this reason, it is extremely important to purchase from reputable suppliers and keep a full audit trail of your order history.

The importance of using legally operating pharmacy suppliers

Merz Aesthetics

Merz, sponsors of Hamilton Fraser’s Aesthetics Business Conference, are one of the world’s leading aesthetics companies and are active in research, development and distribution of innovative products in the areas of aesthetic medicine and dermatology. Claire Cherry, Medical Director at Mertz Aesthetics UK and Ireland, offers her perspective:

“At Merz Aesthetics we are committed to meeting the highest standards through stringent quality control and quality assurance processes. Our prescription only medicines are manufactured according to Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) regulations and our medical devices are CE marked.  To ensure that we achieve this, we aim to maintain full visibility and traceability across our entire supply chain, and it is this end to end approach that supports patient safety.

While no company is immune to counterfeit products or the movement of their goods from multiple re-sellers, we would encourage all healthcare practitioners to be diligent in their approach to the pharmacies that they work with.  Both the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) and European Medicines Agency (EMA) provide a database (Eudra) to allow healthcare practitioners to identify legally operating pharmacy suppliers.

Merz Aesthetics in the UK and Ireland work with a selected group of pharmacy suppliers which allows healthcare practitioners to benefit from knowing that their products are genuinely sourced from Merz in the UK and have been properly managed throughout the entire supply chain.

Our medical information team are always on hand to support any queries or questions healthcare practitioners may have.”

While it may seem tempting to take advantage of the convenience and discounts offered by grey market products, it’s simply not worth risking invalidating your insurance or risking your patients’ safety. Always check that you are sourcing from a legally operating, listed and reputable supplier and keep a full audit trail of your order history.

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