Sign In
Pharmacy Drug Distributors: How to Choose the Right One for Your Pharmacy

Pharmacy Drug Distributors: How to Choose the Right One for Your Pharmacy

January 12, 2021

After serving patients all day at the pharmacy counter, putting in an order with your pharmacy drug distributor should be hassle-free. But with so many options to choose from, deciding where to buy can turn into another stressor.

Finding a single, reliable pharmacy drug distributor for when your primary wholesaler is out of stock or simply doesn’t have the best price will save you both time and money. But don’t settle for a second-rate secondary.

11 Must-Haves in a Pharmacy Drug Distributor

To choose the right pharmacy drug distributor for your pharmacy, keep these characteristics in mind.

1. Consistent low prices

The price tag is often the first thing pharmacists think about when they are choosing a distributor. Whichever distributor you go with should be able to offer you low prices across their entire line of products rather than super steep price cuts on select items.

And while low prices should be a priority, keep reading to learn about the other characteristics that you should consider before using a pharmacy drug distributor.

2. Convenient ordering

Your distributor should make it easy for you to buy the drugs you need online. If a supplier is making you jump through hoops by making you talk on the phone with their sales department or requiring you to dust off your fax machine just to place an order, they are wasting your time.

Look for a distributor with a purchasing interface that can integrate with your pharmacy software system so you don’t even have to visit a website to get the drugs you need.

3. Fast shipping

You place a big order for drugs that your patients need, and then you wait. And wait. And wait. A pharmacy distributor that has great prices won’t help you if their shipping times take an eternity. With unreliable shipping, you risk not having the drugs your patients need when they need them and losing their business to the pharmacy down the street.

Pharmacy drug distributors should have multiple, reliable shipping options so that you can rest easy knowing you’ll have everything you need on time.

Editor’s picks

How to Maximize Wholesaler Rebates and Profitability on Pharmacy Inventory by Elements magazine |

The Best (and Only) Way to Maximize Wholesaler Rebates 


Offset Pharmacy DIR Fees and PBM Reimbursements With These Alternative Revenue Ideas

Here’s How to Overcome Pharmacy DIR Fees and PBM Reimbursements


Is Owning a Pharmacy Profitable? by Elements magazine |

Is Owning a Pharmacy Profitable?



4. Impeccable Accuracy

Your distributor should send you exactly what you ordered every time.

Distributors that frequently send the wrong quantities of items or the wrong products altogether are wasting your time by making you wait for the correct order to ship and creating a risk that you won’t have what your patients need, even though you ordered with your patients’ needs in mind.

5. Wide range of products

Look for a distributor that can be a one-stop-shop, providing a broad range of products like brand names, generics, refrigerated items, controlled substances, and OTCs.

When your pharmacy drug distributor has a wide range of products on hand, that means you can cut down on the shopping around. When you’re primary wholesaler has shortages or tries to stick you with high-cost substitutions, you can trust that your secondary distributor can fill the gap.

6. High-quality inventory

Low prices are great, but not when they come at the expense of quality. Unfortunately, you could be buying counterfeits, stolen, or illegally imported drugs that could harm your patients.

When buying drugs, ask the distributor to show you the pedigree. This document should demonstrate that the distributor can source all of the drugs it buys directly back to the manufacturer. If the distributor won’t show you the pedigree, that’s a red flag.

7. Cash rebates

A great pharmacy drug distributor rewards your purchases by putting money back into your pocket. Much like primary wholesaler rebates, these should scale based on the amount you purchase, and most importantly, they shouldn’t come as credit. They should be cash, plain and simple. If your secondary doesn’t have a rebate structure, you know you’re not getting the best deal.

8. History of success

Just because a company is selling the drugs you need doesn’t mean they are going to be a good business partner.

Don’t risk getting burned by fly-by-night operations and be sure to buy from distributors who have a proven track record. A state license isn’t enough to tell if a distributor is legitimate. Only do business with distributors that have NABP Drug Distributor Accreditation (formerly VAWD accreditation). These distributors have to meet a higher standard and submit to an inspection that ensures they are complying with industry best practices.

9. Independent for your independent pharmacy

As an independent pharmacy, you will be best served by a pharmaceutical supplier that is also independently owned.

An independently owned distributor is more likely to understand your needs as an independent. It’s not answering to external shareholders or catering to the needs of larger pharmacies; it is catering to your benefits.

Just like your patients get more personalized care when they visit your independent pharmacy, you’ll get more personalized service from an independently-owned distributor.

10. Favorable terms

Dive into the details before committing to a pharmacy drug distributor. They should offer favorable terms to their pharmacies.

In addition to multiple shipping options, other conditions that could make your life easier including the ability to pay with a credit card or get a line of credit from the distributor.

You should also be on the lookout for hidden fees or conditions around minimum orders. If you have to meet a minimum order requirement in order to get timely shipping, it might not be the right distributor for you.

11. Help when you need it

Your pharmacy drug distributor should make it easy for you to get ahold of someone when you have a question or problem. If a distributor hides their contact information in a labyrinthine website or puts you on hold for hours at a time, they are wasting your time.

A good distributor will make itself available through multiple channels like online chat, phone, and more to help you solve your problems quickly.

BuyLine Has Everything You’re Looking For 

A distributor that has all of these characteristics might seem too good to be true — but it isn’t.

BuyLine from PBA Health offers all these features for independent pharmacies. An independently-owned, NAPB-accredited distributor, BuyLine 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 online ordering and next-day shipping options, 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 member-owned company serves independent pharmacies with group purchasing services, expert contract negotiations, proprietary purchasing tools, distribution services, and more.

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

Want more pharmacy business tips and advice? Sign up for our e-newsletter.



Sign up for a FREE subscription to Elements magazine!



Sign up to receive the weekly Elements e-newsletter for bonus business tips and advice.

find out more