Healthcare Distribution Alliance – Patients Move Us.
Share Print


Physician's Offices and Clinics Remain Largest Customer Base for Specialty Rx Distributors

February 3, 2015

ARLINGTON, Va. — Physician’s offices and independently owned and operated physician clinics remain the largest customer base for specialty pharmaceutical distributors, at 63 percent of their sales value, according to the 2014 Specialty Pharmaceutical Distribution: Facts, Figures and Trends, published by HDMA’s Center for Healthcare Supply Chain Research. The 2014 edition is sponsored by CuraScript Specialty Distribution, an Express Scripts Company; Genentech, A Member of the Roche Group; AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals LP; and Pharmacy First.

The publication sheds light on the specialty Rx segment, which is valued at $207 billion globally and continues to grow at an unprecedented rate — a 3.9 percent compounded annual growth rate between 2008 and 2013, according to IMS Health. Based on primary survey data collected from HDMA specialty distributor members (who reported sales of $1 billion or more in 2013), as well as secondary data from leading healthcare organizations, this publication outlines major characteristics of the specialty segment — which focuses on the delivery of complex medications for those with chronic or rare diseases, many of which require special handling, storage, delivery and regulations. It also provides insight into the vital role of specialty distributors.

“The distribution-focused specialty research produced by the Center is highly valuable to CuraScript Specialty Distribution,” said Gayle Johnston, President, CuraScript Specialty Distribution and Chairman of the Center’s Board of Directors. “The bird’s-eye view provided by the 2014 Specialty Pharmaceutical Distributon book is very helpful as we gauge what is happening in our industry and improve the accuracy of our future plans."

The increase in sales to physician’s clinics represents a 3 percentage point increase since the 2013 edition. Meanwhile, a decrease was seen in sales to hospitals (from 24 to 20 percent) and hospital-owned/operated and specialty clinics (from 11 to 10 percent of sales value). This may be due to provider consolidation related to reimbursement pressures (from commercial payers and Medicaid).

As noted in the report, oncology accounts for the highest in sales volume for specialty distributors (nearly 33 percent), but those falling outside of oncology, such as hemophilia (nearly 16 percent) and products categorized as “other” (nearly 17 percent) rounded out the top three categories. Along with oncology, medications in the inflammatory (e.g., Rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease) and hemophilia categories are those that specialty distributors believe are rising in importance.

The report further details the efficiencies and critical support specialty distributors provide to the healthcare supply chain. As documented in the 2014 report:

  • On average, a typical specialty distributor distributes to nearly 19,600 healthcare provider accounts, with more than 21,800 unique ship-to points.
  • Specialty distributors process on average nearly 3,400 orders daily, with nearly 12,000 lines picked each day and an average fill rate of 99 percent. The average turnaround time for delivering an order is less than 24 hours.
  • While specialty distributors are known for providing core services to ensure a secure supply chain, they also offer a comprehensive array of other professional services to support the use and delivery of these unique products, such as managing customer call centers, offering third-party logistics and recall services, reimbursement support, home delivery and consulting.

“This report adds to the resources the Center has developed to inform pharmaceutical supply chain stakeholders about the emerging specialty marketplace,” said Karen J. Ribler, Executive Vice President and COO of the Center for Healthcare Supply Chain Research. “With the continued growth of the industry, driven by new product launches, limited impact of patent expiries and increased demand for these products, we expect that there will be no shortage of topics for the Center to continue to explore in the coming years.”


The HDA Research Foundation is the 501(c)(3) nonprofit charitable organization of the Healthcare Distribution Alliance (HDA). The Foundation serves as the thought leader in driving research, education and discussion for all healthcare supply chain stakeholders, enabling the industry's ability to deliver efficient, safe and secure patient access to medicines and medical products. Learn more at


HDA is the national association representing primary healthcare distributors, the vital link between the nation’s pharmaceutical manufacturers and healthcare providers. Each business day, HDA member companies ensure that over 15 million prescription medicines and healthcare products are delivered safely and efficiently to more than 200,000 pharmacies, hospitals, long-term care facilities, clinics and others nationwide. HDA and its members work daily to provide value and achieve cost savings, an estimated $42 billion each year to our nation’s healthcare system.


© 2020 Healthcare Distribution Alliance. All rights reserved.
HDA: E | C | C2 | NF | O365