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HDA History

View an interactive timeline of HDA's history

HDA was founded as the Western Wholesale Druggists’ Association (WWDA) on March 15, 1876, during the first annual convention of 95 wholesale druggists (representing 16 cities, from Cleveland to St. Louis, and 11 states) at the Exchange Hall in Indianapolis.

This first industry meeting was called by Augustus Kiefer to, “remedy the existing evils in the wholesale drug business, and enable the merchants to carry on business on a more profitable basis.” At the time, just a decade following the Civil War, the industry served about 25,000 companies in drugs and medicine. By the end of the first annual convention, the organization had established a variety of committees, among them, those on legislation, “adulteration,” credits and proprietary medicines.

In 1882, the WWDA, representing distribution companies (and now various manufacturer members) from the Atlantic states and beyond the Mississippi, became the National Wholesale Druggists' Association (NWDA). Throughout the years, NWDA continued to advocate on behalf of the distribution industry and the safety, efficiencies and cost-savings distributors bring to the pharmaceutical supply chain.

The organization also came to recognize its companies and individuals for leadership in business practices, technology, innovations and lifetime achievements, with the establishment of the DIANA Awards and the Nexus Award for Lifetime Achievement (first known as the Tim Barry Award) in the 1950s — a proud tradition that continues to this day.

Throughout the years, the pharmaceutical distribution industry underwent a rapid evolution as technologies changed, improving productivity and operational efficiencies. In fact, today, distributors do far more than manage warehouses and ship pharmaceutical goods. They provide a wide array of supporting services that enable the pharmaceutical supply chain to function efficiently and safely, delivering significant value to manufacturers and healthcare providers — and ultimately for patients and consumers as well.

In 1980 NWDA founded its Research and Education Foundation — now the HDA Research Foundation. The Foundation is HDA's non-profit charitable foundation, and serves the healthcare industry by providing research and education focused on priority healthcare supply chain issues.

At the 2000 NWDA Annual Meeting, it was announced the organization was to be renamed the Healthcare Distribution Management Association (HDMA), reflecting the “Association’s vision of a progressively more efficient and effective distribution system.” While under the name of HDMA, the Association successfully advocated for the enactment of the Drug Supply Chain Security Act in 2013, which preempted a 50-state patchwork of pharmaceutical pedigree laws, and the Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act of 2016, to address the prescription drug abuse epidemic. The organization also brought its educational offerings overseas, by hosting the annual International Pharmaceutical Distribution Conference in Beijing (2014), Brussels (2015) and London (September 2016).

In 2016, HDMA became the Healthcare Distribution Alliance (HDA) to reflect the organization’s growing role as a convener of the supply chain both domestically and globally.  In 2017, the Alliance announced an expansion of its membership offerings and expertise by adding the Pharmaceutical Cargo Security Coalition (PCSC) to its services.

Now headquartered in Arlington, Virginia, HDA represents 36 distribution companies — national, regional and specialty — as well as more than 130 manufacturer and more than 50 service provider/international members, respectively. These members serve more than 180,000 licensed healthcare providers, delivering millions of lifesaving products to these outlets every day. But just as in 1876, HDA’s mission has remained the same, which is to: 

  • Advocate for sound public policy that supports patient access to medicines and medical products through safe, efficient and effective distribution;
  • Lead the healthcare supply chain on policy issues, business practices and industry guidelines to inform and support member development of innovative solutions; and,
  • Convene and partner with public and private stakeholders to facilitate discussions on industry issues, provide education and support the sharing of leading practices.


The HDA Research Foundation serves HDA and the healthcare distribution industry by providing research and education focused on supply chain issues.

PCSC logo

HDA’s Pharmaceutical Cargo Security Coalition (PCSC) provides useful insights for anyone interested in supply chain security.

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