SARS biz is nothing to sneeze at

Saturday, May 31, 2003

MILPITAS, Ca. — The outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) hasn’t infected the United States as it has parts of China and Canada, but it has boosted business in masks and other preventative equipment for some state-side HME providers and manufacturers.

“We’re getting requests for large quantities — like 100,000 ear thermometers with probe covers,” said Gary Halick, vice president of A&D Medical, a manufacturer in Milpitas, Calif. “We’re getting requests for immediate shipments to Europe, China and Taiwan.”

Travelers on guard against the spread of SARS and companies that want screening devices are the main reasons for the spike in sales.

The requests started reaching new heights at A&D Medical during the last weeks of April. One customer purchased three-quarters of the company’s ear-thermometer inventory.

“If there are a couple more large orders, that is it for us,” Halick said. “We will run out of inventory if it keeps going like this.”

A&D Medical is not the only HME industry firm on the West Coast that’s been hit with large volume requests. Since the middle of April, Wishing Well Medical, a provider in Santa Monica, Calif., has been fielding orders that call for 60 to 80 boxes of face masks at a time.

“It comes in waves, but we’ve been sending a lot overseas,” said Vice President Donny Albrecht. “We’ve had to start limiting (the orders) to one box per customer.”

One box carries 35 N95 masks and cost $80. The N95 have a 95% efficiency. Individually, the masks cost $8 each.

Wishing Well Medical is stocking a huge inventory to keep up with the demand and has since increased the number of boxes it orders each month, Albrecht said.

“The only thing that we have seen close to this was 9/11,” he said. “During the anthrax scare we sent a bunch (of masks) to several police departments.” HME