What do Pharmaceutical Distributors Do?

Pharmaceutical distributors are the middlemen who ship manufacturers' products to pharmacies and other suppliers. In addition to hospitals and pharmacy chains, more than 22,000 independent pharmacies depend on their services on a daily basis, according to Healthcare Distribution Alliance (HDA). As logistics experts, distributors don't manufacture, prescribe, or promote drugs. They also don't make clinical decisions about who should or should not receive a medication or what medication is best for a particular patient. Getting a drug starts with a prescription, and distributors help ensure that what your healthcare provider prescribes reaches your hospital, pharmacy, or other healthcare facility safely and reliably.

But how does the pharmaceutical supply chain work? The key players in the pharmaceutical supply chain network allow it to operate smoothly and efficiently. These players include manufacturers, wholesale distributors, pharmacies and PBM. Manufacturers create drugs and sell them in bulk to wholesalers, who in turn sell drugs to pharmacies. In this process, wholesalers use complex logistics and packaging methods to receive and deliver medicines on time and in good condition. The pharmaceutical supply chain is extremely complicated in its current form.

Supply chain intermediaries, wholesalers, PBMs, pharmacies and payers benefit from a combination of scale and opacity. Wholesale distributors are the second link in the drug supply chain. They purchase pharmaceuticals from manufacturers for distribution to a variety of different locations, such as pharmacies, hospitals, clinics, doctors' offices, and laboratories. Some distributors sell a variety of products, including medicines and medical equipment, while others specialize in types of products sold or types of customers sold to. A wide range of stakeholders are also involved in the pharmaceutical supply chain, including manufacturers, wholesale distributors, and pharmacy benefit managers (PBM).It is not the responsibility of the distributor to decide who should and who should not receive a particular medication or product, and for what type of patient it is suitable.

As the needs of the pharmaceutical supply chain continue to expand and evolve, HDA's Health Delivered campaign has grown. Due to the complicated nature of the pharmaceutical supply chain, there has been significant vertical integration in space. As experts in healthcare logistics, distributors are uniquely trained to play a critical role in the effort to transport vaccines to where they are needed most. HDA members have long-standing relationships with government agencies and have partnered with state and federal officials to facilitate the distribution of vaccines and pharmaceuticals to meet growing demand in the wake of public health emergencies and natural disasters. Distributors continuously monitor, protect and improve the safety of the pharmaceutical supply chain to ensure that medicines are handled, stored and delivered properly and safely. In addition, distributors have partnered with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to manage the logistics and distribution of the Vaccines for Children program. Hashed Health and Chronicled are equipping prescription products with stamps, labels and other anti-tampering technology to give doctors and patients confidence in the authenticity and quality of their pharmaceuticals.

Distributors manage a complex supply chain, leveraging innovative technologies to ensure safe and efficient delivery every time. In addition to the flu, distributors regularly administer vaccines for hepatitis B, HPV, pneumococcus and herpes zoster. However, in the context of a health-conscious society managing pharmaceutical supply chains presents complexities because it involves life-saving drugs that are vital to patients. HDA distributor members now work tirelessly to overcome the exceptional and unprecedented demands of vaccine deployment across the country by acting as centralized distributors, working with states to move products to dispensing sites, and supporting independent pharmacies in the first line of administration.

Rachel Celli
Rachel Celli

Infuriatingly humble web junkie. Incurable pop culture practitioner. Unapologetic beer lover. Subtly charming social media fanatic. Passionate zombie nerd.