What Does a Drug Distributor Do? An Expert's Perspective

Pharmaceutical distributors are the middlemen who transport manufacturers' products to pharmacies and other suppliers. They are the second link in the drug supply chain, purchasing pharmaceuticals from manufacturers for distribution to a variety of different locations, such as pharmacies, hospitals, clinics, doctors' offices, and laboratories. According to Healthcare Distribution Alliance (HDA), more than 22,000 independent pharmacies rely on their services on a daily basis. 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. The process of getting a drug starts with a prescription. Distributors help ensure that what your healthcare provider prescribes reaches your hospital, pharmacy, or other healthcare facility safely and reliably. 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. During the COVID-19 pandemic, HDA distributor members have been working tirelessly to overcome the exceptional and unprecedented demands of vaccine deployment across the country. They have been acting as centralized distributors, working with states to move products to dispensing sites, and supporting independent pharmacies in the first line of administration.

Healthcare distributors have also been involved in COVID-19 response efforts, managing a complex supply chain to distribute medical supplies, PPE, therapeutic treatments and vaccines. The prices of pharmaceuticals are largely determined by the market. Manufacturers, distributors, and pharmacies often talk to each other to determine how much to pay for how much product based on regional demand, store brand labeling, negotiations, public opinion, and more. Before applying for drug distributor accreditation, outsourcing centers must meet certain conditions. Pharmaceutical manufacturers manage drug distribution from point of production to drug wholesalers and sometimes directly to retain pharmacy chains, specialty pharmacies, hospital chains, and some health plans. Pharmacies typically purchase prescription drugs from wholesalers at a discount contracted in the WAC.

Wholesalers can keep prices low by offering discounts to distributors who can move more products and pay on time (or in advance), and selling drugs in the short term which carries the risk of expiration before sale. By combining purchasing power, wholesalers can help smaller pharmacies better negotiate with generic drug manufacturers. Healthcare distributors offer unmatched logistics expertise and technology solutions to providers who treat patients on the frontline as well as those who innovate to find tomorrow's treatments and cures. Regulations are incredibly strict when it comes to how medicines are received, stored, handled and sold due to the unique nature of the wholesale distributor in the drug supply chain. Today's wholesale distributors offer a range of specialized services such as specialty drug distribution, pharmaceutical repackaging, electronic ordering services, drug buyback programs and reimbursement support.

Rachel Celli
Rachel Celli

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