Finding the right type of ostomy supplies is an essential element for living well with an ostomy. After surgery individuals leave the hospital wearing a particular brand of ostomy equipment. Many people stay with their initial brand and live happily. However, there is more than one manufacturer of ostomy supplies, as well as more than one way to purchase them.

Selection Considerations

Here are some tips to remember when choosing your type of ostomy supplies:

Consult with your ostomy nurse first for information and recommendations for your particular situation.

Remember that every person is different and you need to find what works best for you.

You should feel free to experiment with different manufacturers of the same product or different types of products. Call the manufacturer’s toll free 800 number and request product samples, or ask your supplier for a sample.

Check with your supplier for suggestions for new products. Ask if they have an ostomy nurse or other knowledgeable staff available to answer questions.

Evaluating Suppliers

There are three major categories of ostomy supply dealers. Before you choose a particular supplier, you should be aware of the different services and choices each type offers:

Medical/Surgical Supply Houses – These companies specialize in selling all types of medical supplies. If they focus on ostomy products, they may offer special services such as ostomy nurses on staff, product recommendations, and troubleshooting advice. They will have a large amount of frequently-used supplies in stock, but can also special-order items. You generally purchase products by shopping at their store.

Mail-order/Internet Companies – These companies operate on a national level, similar to any mail-order catalog. Once you receive a catalog, you can place an order by phone, online or by mail. Due to the large volume of supplies they sell, mail order supply houses often provide a discount on prices. They may also have ostomy experts available for consultation. They do provide an easy way to purchase supplies.

Local Drugstores – Due to consolidation and specialization in the industry, fewer and fewer chain drugstores will special-order medical supplies, but some of the remaining independent stores often will provide such customized service. They may or may not carry a number of different brands. However, they may charge higher prices due to smaller volume.

United Ostomy Association, Inc.Please see the article in its entirety at the link above. It is excellent.

How can you be a wise consumer?

Pay attention to labels. If the instructions are in many languages or if measurements are in S.I. (metric) units, the product may be intended for sale in another country, not the U.S. This can mean the product does not meet U.S. requirements and may be of inferior quality.

Beware of cure-alls claims, amazing results, and independent research that the government is supposedly hiding. Unscrupulous merchants have found a new audience for miracle cure-alls on the Internet. Remember, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Ask the seller, “Has the FDA cleared or approved this product for sale in the United States?”

Talk to your healthcare professional about medical devices that you plan to buy on the Internet.

Beware of sites that do not include an address and telephone in the United States.

Check the FDA’s Buying Online Homepage at for helpful information about buying medical products on the Internet and to notify the FDA about problem Web sites. You can also report problem Web sites by e-mail to