Distributors: The Vital Link Between Manufacturers, Healthcare Providers — and Ultimately Patients

Healthcare distributors are the backbone of the U.S. healthcare ecosystem, serving as the vital link connecting approximately 1,500 pharmaceutical manufacturers to more than 180,000 individual pharmacies, hospitals, healthcare facilities and other sites of care.

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Patients Depend on Distributors for Lifesaving Treatments and Cures

Distributors work behind the scenes to deliver treatments and cures to patients in U.S. — delivering 10.5 million products each business day.
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Delivery Within Hours, Not Days

With operations continuously running, primary distributors can take orders made by 8:00 p.m. and deliver them to their end destination as soon as the next morning.
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Saving Billions of Healthcare Dollars

The pharmaceutical distribution industry saves the U.S. healthcare system between $33–$53 billion each year through investments in logistics solutions, supply chain expertise and technological advancements.

Our Role in the Supply Chain

Distributors manage a complex supply chain, harnessing innovative technologies to ensure safe, secure and efficient delivery, every time. The industry purchases prescription medicines and other medical products directly from pharmaceutical manufacturers for storage in warehouses and distribution centers across the country. State and federally licensed pharmacies, hospitals and healthcare providers place orders with distributors for the medicines and products they need, and distributors process and deliver the orders daily.

A flow chart of how distributors deliver medicines in the healthcare supply chain

Healthcare distributors deliver unmatched logistics expertise, technology solutions and support to providers treating patients on the frontlines, as well as those innovating to find the treatments and cures of tomorrow.

Safe, Secure and Efficient Delivery is Our Top Priority

As the healthcare system rapidly changes, distributors are constantly envisioning new ways to move and secure the nation’s medicines, all while protecting patient safety.

Distributors continuously monitor, protect and enhance the security of the pharmaceutical supply chain to ensure medicines are properly and securely handled, stored and delivered.

Without distributors, manufacturers would spend substantial financial, logistical and staff resources that could be used in other important ways. Thanks to distributors, the system is more efficient, reliable and secure.

Distributors’ Role in the Supply Chain

As logistics experts, distributors do not manufacture, prescribe or promote medicines. Distributors also do not make clinical decisions as to who should or should not receive a medicine or what medicine is best for a particular patient. Getting a medicine starts with a prescription, and distributors help make sure that what your healthcare provider prescribes gets to your hospital, pharmacy or other healthcare facility safely, securely and reliably.

Turning Vaccines Into Vaccinations

Within the first six months of the first vaccine authorizations, the healthcare distribution industry played a central role in ensuring that millions of lifesaving COVID-19 vaccines and their associated supplies were safely delivered to patients. That number grows larger every day. Public health partners, federal, state and local governments regularly turn to distributors during national emergencies for their leadership and expertise to safely, efficiently and reliably deliver vaccines to thousands of locations across the country. Further, distributors manage extensive relationships with global and domestic manufacturers to provide medical supplies, including critical personal protective equipment (PPE).

A gif of the COVID-19 vaccine distribution supply chain

COVID-19 Response Efforts

Healthcare distributors have been integrally engaged in COVID-19 related response efforts, working with federal, state and local government agencies to distribute medical supplies, PPE, therapeutic treatments and vaccines. From managing the unique inventory demands of the first hotspots, to ensuring access to emerging treatment options and testing, HDA members have drawn upon their extensive supply and distribution networks, logistics expertise and experience navigating public health emergencies.

HDA distributor members are now working tirelessly to navigate the exceptional and unprecedented demands of the nationwide vaccine rollout by serving as the centralized distributor, working with states to move products to dispensing sites and supporting independent pharmacies on the frontlines of administration. Learn more.


Health Delivered

Report: The First 90 Days: US Biopharmaceutical Finished Goods Supply Chain Response to COVID-19

Report: The Role of Distributors in the US Health Care Industry

Infographic: Supply Chain Coordination During COVID-19

Fact Sheet: Distributors Create Efficiencies in Healthcare

Infographic: Delivering Value Across the Healthcare Ecosystem

Fact Sheet: How Do Medicines Get to Where They Need to Go?

Infographic: The Vital Link in the Pharmaceutical Supply Chain

Wall Street Journal Ad: Understanding Our Role in the Supply Chain

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