HDMA is now the Healthcare Distribution Alliance

June 13, 2016
Pharmaceutical Commerce, Pharmaceutical Commerce - July/August 2016,

Internationalization of drug wholesaling is a factor in the name change

It might strike outsiders as a subtle—and minor—change in emphasis, but there are significant drivers behind the Healthcare Distribution Management Assn.’s rebranding as HDA. The organization has had major success in two pieces of recent federal legislation: the Drug Supply Chain Security Act (DSCSA), passed in late 2013, and S.483, the Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act, passed in April. These days, there aren’t too many legislative acts passing all the way through to the President’s desk for signature; HDA had pushed forcefully for both of them. Equally significantly, recent HDA member activity, as well as the organization’s events programs, have emphasized the internationalization of drug wholesaling, with each of HDA’s biggest members, McKesson, AmerisourceBergen and Cardinal Health, forging major partnerships or acquisitions in Europe, South America and Asia.

“While simplifying our name, the new Healthcare Distribution Alliance brand also reflects our organization’s strategic role as a supply chain leader and convener in advocacy and education,” said John Gray, president and CEO. “The word ‘Alliance,’ in particular, better reflects our role as a convener of the supply chain — in the United States and now abroad — with the vision and persistence to successfully navigate these changes.”

In the past two years, HDA has organized an international meeting (Beijing in 2014, Brussels in 2015, and an upcoming London meeting in September). Beyond the simple fact that its members have international business, pharma distribution itself is beginning to have global standards and practices, such as traceability initiatives around the world, and closer coordination of temperature-controlled shipping.

Gray goes on to highlight wholesaler/distributors’ growing role in patient support: “Our position at the center of the healthcare supply chain allows us to forge key partnerships for the benefit of our ultimate customer — the patient — which is reflected in our new tagline, ‘Patients Move Us.’ While distributors often do not come into direct contact with patients, we recognize that our industry and the supply chain would not exist if patients did not rely on, and benefit from, our services and expertise.”

HDA’s nonprofit research arm, the Center for Healthcare Supply Chain Research, will now be known as the HDA Research Foundation.

HDA today has about 32 distributor members (which has shrunk in recent years as consolidation continues in the US market) representing nearly all of the “full line” distributors that carry essentially all FDA-approved drugs, as well as varying quantities of medical devices and healthcare supplies. Additionally, it has associate (nonvoting) members of over 150 manufacturers, 50 service providers, and a handful of international distributors. Besides the Research Foundation, it also has a political action committee for lobbying and campaign contributions.

HDA represents a 140-year-old activity in the US: it was originally founded as the Western Wholesale Druggists’ Assn. (WWDA) on March 15, 1876, in Indianapolis. It became the National Wholesale Druggists’ Assn. in 1882 and HDMA in 2001.

On the internationalization front, there is already such an organization: the International Federal of Pharmaceutical Wholesalers (based in Manassas, VA), but aside from some recent charitable and educational work, it exists mainly for an annual gathering of members. HDA’s roughly comparable European organization is the European Healthcare Distribution Assn., known mostly by its French acronym, GIRP, and based in Brussels.

The name change was announced at HDA's annual Business and Leadership Conference (June 12-15, Colorado Springs). “The Board of Directors is proud to unveil the new HDA,” said Ted Scherr, president/CEO, Dakota Drug, Inc., and HDA Chairman. “HDA is well positioned for the future as it will continue to build on its 140-year history of collaboration and supply chain leadership.”