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How to Find Low Price Wholesale Pharmaceuticals 

January 28, 2020

Inside: Finding reliable low-price or discounted pharmaceuticals can be a challenge. Here’s the best way to save money on wholesale drugs while keeping your pharmacy business safe.

There are lots of opportunities to buy drugs outside of your primary contract. You probably rely on secondary suppliers to get through shortages or supplement your inventory.

With hundreds of secondary wholesalers to buy from, narrowing in on the best deal can be near impossible. There’s limited time to compare prices, and even when you do find the lowest price, that supplier may not be reliable. Pitfalls like substandard drugs and wasted time mean you have to be smart about which secondaries to buy from in order to save the most money in the long run.

Here are some “dos” and “don’ts” of finding low price or discounted pharmaceuticals, whether brand or generic, that truly save money while also protecting your pharmacy and patients.


Don’t: Buy Based on List Price Alone

The list price of drugs is important, but it doesn’t represent the net cost, which is what really matters. Your net cost is the total cost after you factor in rebates or additional brand discounts. Say one drug costs $1 from one supplier and $1.50 from another supplier. The first supplier’s cost seems better on the surface, but if you get $1 back in rebates from the second supplier, it actually ends up being cheaper on the whole. Don’t make the common mistake of only evaluating a drug’s price based on the list price alone.

Do: Buy From Wholesalers With a Rebate Program

In addition to consistently low prices, your secondary supplier should also offer cash rebates on all your generic purchases. You should get a percentage of your generic purchases back into your pocket — not as credit or anything else, but as cash. The best suppliers also provide discounts on brands based on your purchase volume — not on a select number of brands, but all brands.


Don’t: Waste Time Shopping Around

Time is money. Keep this in mind as you search through every single wholesaler looking for the absolute best deal on prescription drugs. While you may end up finding low-price generics or brands, it could be costing you in other areas.

It’s time you could be spending with patients or making other improvements to your pharmacy. Instead of going down the rabbit hole, find one or two secondary suppliers that you trust to have consistently low prices and buy from them. You may not always get the absolute lowest, bargain-barrel price, but the hassle you save is invaluable.

Do: Have a Buying Strategy

Comparison shopping is tempting, but even if you do manage to get the lowest possible price on every individual item, you won’t necessarily have saved the most money in the long run.

If you have a contract with a primary wholesaler, you have the opportunity to earn rebates on your purchases. These are based on volume, especially with generics, and they result in substantial savings when maximized.

When you spread out your purchases among secondary suppliers, you risk not hitting your generic compliance requirements and miss out on thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars in rebates. Shopping smart means concentrating most of your purchases with your primary wholesaler, and buying from a secondary supplier when you know it won’t risk missing your contract incentives targets.


Don’t: Take Risks on Quality

If you find a drug priced so low that it seems too good to be true, it probably is. A prescription might have the right label, but there’s a chance that it might be counterfeited.

Stolen, substandard, and counterfeit drugs are common in the international supply chain, so you have to be especially careful when it comes to imported pharmaceuticals. Those low-price wholesale pharmaceuticals may put your patients at risk.

The recently implemented Drug Supply Chain Security Act is designed to protect U.S. patients from these substandard drugs, but since the supply chain is complicated, you should remain on guard.

All pharmaceutical suppliers should have a license from the state board of pharmacy — it’s illegal for them to do business without it. However, some state licensing requirements are laxer than others, and just because a wholesaler has a license, that doesn’t mean the wholesaler is trustworthy.

In addition to having a state license, you should also look for secondary suppliers that are accredited by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (formerly VAWD). NABP accreditation has a stricter review process than state licensing boards. NABP-accredited wholesalers are screened through the NABP Clearinghouse and have their facilities, operating policies, and procedures reviewed, so you know they’re meeting the strictest standards.

Do: Ensure Drugs Are Traceable

Pharmacies need to know the source of the drugs they buy in order to know they are safe. Members of the Healthcare Distribution Alliance can only source their drugs directly from the manufacturer. By buying from HDA members, pharmacies can be sure the drugs they’re purchasing are safe.

Drugs have a “pedigree” that serves as a record of where it has been. Pharmacies should examine the pedigree for information including:


If the distributor won’t give you a pedigree, it’s a red flag the drug might have a shady past, and you should avoid doing business with them.


Don’t: Settle For Short-Dated Suppliers

Many secondary suppliers with competitive pricing only offer a limited number of products at a temporary price decrease. Although these may sometimes save you money, those suppliers can’t support the inventory needs of a busy retail pharmacy. That means you’re forced to constantly jump back and forth between suppliers to keep your pharmacy stocked.

Do: Expect a Complete Line of Products

When your primary supplier is out of something you need, your secondary wholesaler should always have what you need in a pinch.

That’s why it’s important to pick a secondary supplier that has a full line of products. They should carry brand names, generics, over-the-counter drugs, refrigerated products, and controlled medications.


Don’t: Spend Too Much Time Ordering

After working a 12-hour shift, you’re ready to wind down for the day. The last thing you want to do is pull together a product order. That’s why it’s important to use suppliers with a fast and hassle-free ordering platform that quickly gets you out the door toward home.

Your secondary supplier also shouldn’t require a contract, charge membership fees, or have minimum order requirements.

Do: Use a Supplier With Easy-to-Use Online Interface

Look for a secondary supplier with a site that’s easy to navigate and provides convenient features like order replication, a frequent purchases listing, hard-to-find and popular items, multiple search options, and an option to be notified when an item is back in stock.

The best way to order is through your EDI, which simplifies ordering and allows easier comparison of prices between secondary suppliers. The best suppliers offer this feature, so you don’t need to settle for less.


Buy Smarter with BuyLine

BuyLine is a secondary supplier from PBA Health, designed with the needs of independent pharmacies in mind. BuyLine is accredited by NABP (formerly VAWD) and offers a full line of brand, generic, and OTC products at the lowest prices in the secondary market. In addition to having low list prices, BuyLine also rewards purchases with cash rebates and significant discounts on brands. Earn up to an additional 10% cash rebate on generics and up to WAC -4% on brand. BuyLine’s discount applies to all brand products.

With intuitive online ordering, an EDI option, and next-day shipping, shopping with BuyLine is quick and convenient. And if questions arise, BuyLine’s live chat feature means you can get answers fast.

There are absolutely no commitments with BuyLine — no fees, no contracts. Try it to see if you like it and bail if you don’t. Set up is simple and ordering even simpler.


An Independently Owned Organization Serving Independent Pharmacies

PBA Health is dedicated to helping independent pharmacies reach their full potential on the buy side of their business. The company is a member-owned organization that serves independent pharmacies with group purchasing services, expert contract negotiations, proprietary purchasing tools, distribution services, and more.

PBA Health, an HDA member, operates its own VAWD-certified warehouse with more than 6,000 SKUs, including brands, generics, narcotics CII-CV, cold-storage products, and over-the-counter (OTC) products.

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