HDMA: Representing the voice of primary pharmaceutical distributors

In this Q&A, Perry Fri, Senior Vice President of Industry Relations, Membership & Education, Healthcare Distribution Management Assn., discusses the organization’s role in the pharmaceutical supply chain.

Healthcare Distribution Management Assn. logo
Healthcare Distribution Management Assn. logo

Healthcare Packaging (HCP): What is the mission of HDMA?

Fri: The Healthcare Distribution Management Association’s mission is to protect patient safety and access to medicines; create and exchange industry knowledge and best practices to enhance the value of the healthcare supply chain; and advocate for standards, public policies, and business processes that produce safe, innovative, and cost-effective healthcare solutions.

HCP: HDMA, is primarily the industry organization for the U.S. nationwide drug distributors, but you also have members who are pharmaceutical manufacturers, solution providers, and others.  How does the organization serve each of these types of members?

Fri: HDMA is the industry association representing primary healthcare distributors. We represent 32 primary distribution member companies—national, regional, and specialty organizations that manage approximately 91% of the $326 billion U.S. pharmaceuticals market. HDMA’s mission is to protect patient safety and access to medicines through the safe and efficient distribution of healthcare products and services. We also create and exchange industry knowledge and best practices to enhance the value of the healthcare supply chain. Finally, we advocate for standards, public policies, and business processes—both on Capitol Hill and in the states—that produce safe, innovative, and cost-effective healthcare solutions.

The association also has nearly 150 manufacturer members and more than 50 service provider member companies, respectively. For manufacturers, specifically, HDMA serves as a forum for these companies to work together with their distributor trading partners to identify strategies and solutions to timely and complex industry issues in the areas of business technology, logistics, and business processes through the work of its committees and task forces. As a result of these partnerships, HDMA is a one-of-a-kind resource for white papers, guidelines, and leading-edge intelligence. Both manufacturers and service provider companies also join the association to build close business relationships with pharmaceutical distribution companies, build their network of contacts, and share their expertise with the industry.

HCP: HDMA has published industry guidelines for the use of barcodes and Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) in the U.S. pharmaceutical supply chain.  How do these guides complement the related GS1 and ANSI X12 standards that they reference?

Fri: GS1 and ANSI X12 standards are broad cross-industry standards. HDMA guidelines facilitate the implementation of these standards in the U.S. pharmaceutical supply chain. In certain, very specific instances we may vary from the standard; these guidelines and variances are developed based on members’ (pharmaceutical manufacturers’ and distributors’) input. The input provided is based on longstanding business practices in the pharmaceutical supply chain.    

HCP: How can interested readers get a copy of these guidelines?

Fri: Guidelines are available electronically and can be purchased through the HDMA Marketplace, at ShopHDMA.org. HDMA members can download these at no charge; non-members can download copies for $495.

HCP: Do you see the day coming where the traditional EDI documents will be replaced in the U.S. pharma supply chain by e-pedigree or track-and-trace information?  How are these different?

Fri: Pedigree/track-and-trace or traceability transactions are being developed to meet a specific regulatory compliance need, and they will be used to increase safety in an already safe supply chain. EDI transactions cover a much broader spectrum of business transactions (such as purchase orders, invoices, logistics, etc.) currently employed in the pharmaceutical supply chain. Therefore, there isn’t a one-to-one correlation. EDI will be used in the pharmaceutical supply chain for the foreseeable future.    

HCP: HDMA produces a number of industry conferences and seminars throughout the year. Can you tell us which events are for which audiences?

Fri: HDMA annually hosts two conferences. The Distribution Management Conference (DMC) and Technology Expo, open to both member and non-member individuals, features nearly 30 concurrent education sessions on logistics, operations and technology advances, as well as legislative and regulatory updates. We also host a robust Technology Expo, where service and technology providers can showcase innovative products and services.This conference is primarily attended by management-level supply chain professionals responsible for operations, compliance, customer service, and other functions.

The HDMA Business and Leadership Conference is the association’s annual members-only conference, open to high-level executives, vice presidents, and c-suite level professionals. A highlight of this conference is two and a half days of productive one-on-one business appointments for members in one place, and at one time.

HDMA also hosts a variety of unique educational seminars targeted to specific subjects and audiences. This fall, the association hosted three seminars, including a Trade Management Seminar (new this year), and popular seminars on track-and-trace technologies and streamlining the contracts and chargebacks process. More information on these programs is available on HDMA’s website. The Association also holds an invitation-only Annual Board & Membership Meeting, open to HDMA Board members and manufacturer event sponsors.

HCP. HDMA often represents the larger U.S. pharmaceutical distributors in public responses to requests for comments by the FDA, DEA, and other state and federal regulatory agencies on contentious and controversial issues. How are those responses developed and authorized by the members?

Fri: HDMA has a typical association governance structure in place to assist us in setting priorities for the organization. Additionally, HDMA members participate in a variety of committees and task forces, open to all distributor members, which provide input and expertise regarding our advocacy efforts. Typically, HDMA staff draft comments and other documents and vet these extensively through the membership through these committees and task forces. 

HCP: What is the relationship between HDMA and other industry associations, alliances, partnerships, joint activities, etc?

Fri: HDMA participates in a variety of industry groups and coalitions, and maintains close relationships with other industry groups representing the healthcare supply chain [such as the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers Assn. (PhRMA), The Generic Pharmaceutical Asn. (GPhA), the National Assn. of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS), the National Community Pharmacists Assn. (NCPA), and the Consumer Healthcare Products Assn., to name a few.] HDMA is actively engaged with these associations on a variety of issues, keeping the voice of distribution strong and collaborating with them through a variety of educational and information-sharing efforts.

Additionally, HDMA is:

• A leader in the Pharmaceutical Distribution Security Alliance, the stakeholder coalition advocating for a national pharmaceutical traceability (pedigree) solution. Through this coalition HDMA has advanced the dialogue on the important issue of establishing this national framework to ensure patient safety and continued efficiencies. [A congressional proposal, the Drug Quality and Security Act [H.R. 3204 is nearing passage; it currently awaits a final Senate vote.]

• A founding member of Rx Response coalition, which connects the pharmaceutical industry with government officials in advance of and during a severe emergency, and provides additional resources to promote business continuity and emergency response.

• A member of the Partnership for Safe Medicines, which promotes efforts to protect the legitimate pharmaceutical supply chain, as well as a strategic partner for The Partnership at Drugfree.org’s “Medicine Abuse Project” campaign to address the serious issue of prescription drug abuse.

Also, HDMA collaborated with the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Wholesalers (IFPW) and the Canadian Assn. for Pharmacy Distribution Management (CAPDM) to host its Distribution Management Conference in 2013, and plans to do so again in 2014 on March 9-12 at the JW Marriott Desert Springs in Palm Desert, CA.