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HDA Foundation Factbook Provides Data on Industry Operations and Trends

December 11, 2018

ARLINGTON, Va. — The HDA Research Foundation released the 89th Edition HDA Factbook: The Facts, Figures and Trends in Healthcare (2018–2019), featuring updated data trends on the pharmaceutical distribution industry. According to the latest findings, chain drug stores remained the largest customer segment for distributors in 2017, representing 42.6 percent of all sales — a 10.2 percent increase from the previous year. Correspondingly, the total number of sales that went through primary pharmaceutical distributors in 2017 is estimated at 92 percent (or $461 billion).

“For nearly 90 years, the Factbook has charted the significant value distributors bring to the healthcare industry through the secure and efficient delivery of medicines and healthcare products,” said Perry Fri, Executive Vice President of Industry Relations, Membership and Education, HDA; and COO of the HDA Research Foundation. “This publication remains an important resource for supply chain leaders and experts to analyze industry performance.”

Primary data for the HDA Factbook are collected through an annual survey of HDA-member traditional distributor companies with sales greater than $1 billion. Supplementary data also are included from healthcare and governmental organizations. Other information detailed in the publication includes distributor demographics and characteristics, finance, information systems, operations and more.

Also noted in the 2018 Factbook:

  • On a typical business day, pharmaceutical distributors picked an average of 97,395 units and handled 5,024 orders. Most distributors, or 70.8 percent, used automated picking methods.

  • Approximately 1,676 SKUs required special handling; of these units, generic pharmaceutical products comprised 52.1 percent. Additionally, the average total number of SKUs distributors held in inventory decreased by 6 percent to 51,341 SKUs. Out of the average number of total SKUs in inventory, 28,148 were non-prescription health products.

  • Distributors had a gross profit margin rate of 2.4 percent, decreasing by 0.1 percent since 2016.

  • 93 percent of all orders were placed online or through order entry systems.

  • The total annual costs associated with the returns process averaged $4.6 million per company in 2017, a $100,000 decrease from the previous year.

  • In 2017, distributors reduced days in inventory to 28.1 days (from 28.5 days in 2016), which is the lowest inventory holding period in at least 20 years.

The 89th Edition HDA Factbook: The Facts, Figures and Trends in Healthcare (2018–2019) is produced with support from silver sponsors Apotex Corp. and Real Value Rx dba Hospital Pharmaceutical Consulting; and bronze sponsors Amneal Pharmaceuticals, IQVIA and Pharmacy First. The publication is available to download through the HDA website.


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


The Healthcare Distribution Alliance (HDA) represents primary pharmaceutical distributors — the vital link between the nation’s pharmaceutical manufacturers and pharmacies, hospitals, long-term care facilities, clinics and others nationwide. Since 1876, HDA has helped members navigate regulations and innovations to get the right medicines to the right patients at the right time, safely and efficiently. The HDA Research Foundation, HDA’s nonprofit charitable foundation, serves the healthcare industry by providing research and education focused on priority healthcare supply chain issues.


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