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HDA pharmaceutical distributors manage 93% of 2019 U.S. sales

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ARLINGTON, Va. — Data published today by the HDA Research Foundation reveal an estimated 93% of all U.S. pharmaceutical sales were completed through HDA-member traditional pharmaceutical distributors in 2019. As illustrated in the 91st Edition HDA Factbook, total distributor sales reached $519 billion.

“Each year, the Factbook quantifies the role distributors play as the critical connection point between health care manufacturers and dispensers — and in turn, the savings they deliver to the overall ecosystem,” said Perry Fri, executive vice president and COO of the HDA Research Foundation. “As the Foundation’s data show, distributors are constantly optimizing their operations to help fulfill the daily healthcare needs of all Americans.”

Prescription drugs comprised approximately $420 billion of distributors’ overall pharmaceutical sales, representing a nearly 6% growth over 2018. Chain drug stores accounted for the most prescription drug sales through distributors, at nearly 46%. Mail-order prescriptions also saw a notable increase, rising from 9.7% to 12.4% in 2019. Additionally, distributors worked with more than 1,400 manufacturer suppliers.

The HDA Factbook is based on surveys collected at the corporate level of HDA traditional distributor member companies with annual sales greater than $1 billion, with secondary data included from healthcare and governmental organizations. Data reflect distribution industry performance metrics and overall supply chain management trends for the 2019 operating year; accordingly, this edition does not reflect the effect of COVID-19 on supply chain operations.

Among the overall findings:

  • On a typical business day, each traditional distribution center picked more than 105,000 SKUs and processed about 4,000 orders.
  • The average total number of SKUs that distributors held in inventory was 45,645; prescription medicines represented 76% of total lines picked, with non-prescription drugs (such as health and personal care products, general merchandise and durable medical equipment and home healthcare) making up the remainder.
  • Annual costs associated with the returns process averaged $5.1 million per company. About 90 percent of prescription and 78% of non-prescription products were considered saleable, respectively.
  • Approximately 86% of distributors report scanning barcode labels on inbound from suppliers; all report scanning the NDC number, and barcodes at the case and item levels.
  • Forty percent are currently using EPCIS 1.2 for serialized data exchange (a requirement for 2023 Drug Supply Chain Security Act interoperability), with 60% reporting they plan to do so in the next 12 months.

The 91st Edition HDA Factbook: The Facts, Figures and Trends in Healthcare (2020-2021), available as a complimentary download, was made possible through the support of gold sponsors Apotex Corp. and Real Value dba Hospital Pharmaceutical Consulting; and bronze sponsors Ascend Laboratories, LLC, IQVIA, Johnson & Johnson Health Care Systems Inc., Pharmacy First and Teva Pharmaceuticals.


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