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Chain Drug Stores Account for 42.6 Percent of Sales for Pharma Distributors

The HDA Research Foundation’s new Factbook offers data and insight on healthcare supply chain trends. Additionally, over 70% of distributors used automated picking methods.

Chain drug stores remained the largest customer segment for distributors in 2017, representing 42.6% of all sales—a 10.2% increase from the previous year according to recent findings from the HDA Research Foundation. The total number of sales that went through primary pharmaceutical distributors in 2017 is estimated at 92% (or $461 billion). 

The 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.

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

The 2018 Factbook also shows:

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

  • Approximately 1,676 SKUs required special handling; of these units, generic pharmaceutical products comprised 52.1%. Additionally, the average total number of SKUs distributors held in inventory decreased by 6% 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%, decreasing by 0.1% since 2016. 

  • 93% 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

According the HDA Research Foundation, the Factbook 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. 

“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.” 

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