Pharmaceutical Wholesalers – Providing a Lifeline for Essential medications              

A pharmaceutical wholesaler purchases prescription medicines from pharmaceutical manufacturers to sell directly to various medication providers. These medication providers include: retail pharmacy chains, independent retail pharmacies, health systems, clinics, international importers, research institutions, hospitals and healthcare professionals and long-term care providers. Read on to learn more about the important role of pharmaceutical wholesalers in supplying America’s domestic and international pharmaceutical supply systems.

What Types of Licensure are Required for Wholesalers?

In order to supply prescription medications to the entities described above, licensure from the DEA for controlled substances and the appropriate State Board of Pharmacy are required to maintain supply operations.

What Types of Products are Supplied?

Pharmaceutical wholesalers supply many different FDA approved products including:

  • Brand name medications
  • Generic medications
  • Over the counter medications (OTC)
  • Compounding Ingredients
  • Vaccines

Why are Large Wholesalers of Medications Essential for Small Pharmacies and Independent Drug Stores?

Smaller pharmacies and independent pharmacies often have difficulty competing with larger national pharmacy chains. They are often unable to offer generic, brand and over the counter medications to their patients at the same competitive prices found at large chain pharmacy such as CVS, Walmart and Walgreens Boots Alliance.

By working with regional and national pharmacological distributors who can provide rapid and efficient electronic order processing and the best available negotiated pricing, small and independent drug stores can achieve parity and receive fair pricing that is comparable with the larger chain pharmacies.

Large wholesalers can also help smaller pharmacies obtain product in other areas such as specialty pharmacy and hepatitis medications.

Types of Wholesalers: Full-line and Specialty Wholesalers

Full-line Wholesalers carry the entire pharmaceutical product line of a drug manufacturer along with specialty drugs.

Specialty Wholesalers supply Specialty Drugs which are also known as “biologics” and are made from living cells taken orally or by injection.

Specialty Distributors now account for approximately 30% of full-line wholesalers’ revenues.

Specialty distributors sell specialty pharmaceuticals to physician owned clinics, hospitals as well as hospital owned outpatient clinics.

Recent studies indicate that by 2022, 47% of the revenues of the pharmaceutical industry will be from specialty drugs.

Specialty drugs are used to treat medical conditions such as:

  • HIV
  • Cancer
  • Hepatitis C
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Psoriasis
  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease


A Pharmaceutical wholesaler play a crucial role in providing high quality, low cost medications both to large national chain pharmacies and to small, independent pharmacies. By negotiating fair prices from manufacturers and guaranteeing seamless delivery of generic, brand name and over the counter medications to both large and small pharmacies they help ensure the prompt delivery of safe and affordable medications to patients worldwide.