Medicine is the substance containing medicament as an active ingredient or preparation for healing a sick person while a drug is any chemical compound synthesized with an intention to bring change in normal physiological functions of the body. The government-registered stores that discover, produce, and dispose of safe and effective use and control of the medication and drugs are called the pharmacies. To ensure safe, effectiveness, and conforming to state quality standards, the import, manufacture, and distribution of drugs in India are regulated by the government under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940. The Act defines drugs as:

  1. Medicines that can be internally or externally consumed or applied by human beings as well as animals. It also describes them as substances that are made to be used in the diagnosis of some illness, or for its treatment. Apart from diagnosis and treatment drugs are also substances for mitigating and preventing diseases of many kinds and disorders that can be there in human beings and animals.
  2. The substances that can be consumed apart from food that is mainly used for altering the structure or function of some parts of the human body. These substances are made with the intention to destroy 10[vermin] or anything that causes diseases in the human body as well as in animals. This has been mentioned again and again by the Central Government via notifications given in the Official Gazette.
  3. The substances are made to be used as components or chemicals needed for the preparation of a drug. This can even include gelatine capsules that are empty.
  4. Devices that are processed for consumption or application internally or externally by human beings or animals undergoing some diagnostic treatment, or for curing some infections. Also, the devices are made for preventing diseases as well as a disorder in living beings as a whole both humans and animals.

1- Classification of Medicines

Physicians are classifying medicines according to the following categories:

A- Stage of development

Depending upon the period after drug discovery, patent period, and post-patent covered period, medicines are classified as brand medicines and generic medicines.

a. Branded (traded) medicines are medicines whose trade name is given by a pharmaceutical company that markets the drug. When the company discovers the active ingredient, it protects the drug with a patent for a certain number of years. While the medicine is covered under the patent, no other company can sell a similar medicine containing the drug.

b.  Generic Medicines: After the patent expires, other companies are allowed to make generic medicines that contain the patented active ingredient. Then, there will be many generic medicines available to the customers at a range of prices. However, generic medicines should meet the strict standards of quality, safety, and efficacy as the original.

B- Effects on the human body

Based on the impact on the body after use, drugs are classified as

  1. Antibiotics
  2. Vitamins
  3. Synthetic hormones
  4. Glandular products
  5. Vaccines and Sera
  6. Other pharmaceutical products such as antihistamines, tranquilizers, oral antidiabetics, etc.

C- Forms

Medicines come in the forms of the following preparation:

  1. Bottled Liquid
  2. Tablet
  3. Capsules
  4. Topical ointments
  5. Drops
  6. Inhalers
  7. Injections
  8. Implants or patches
  9. Spansules are specialized capsules designed to release drugs at a steady, slow rate over a period of time.
  10. Softgels is a specialized capsule consisting of a gelatine-based shell with a liquid filling.
  11. Buccal tablets are not meant for swallowing but held in the cheeks until the active ingredients are absorbed into the mouth.
  12. Suppositories are bullet-shaped tablets that are administered rectally and are not meant for oral ingestion.

D- Supply source

Based on the source of retail distribution to the public, drugs can be outsourced through

  1. General Sales medicines or over-the-counter drugs can be easily available and bought from pharmacies, convenience, and grocery stores without a prescription from a healthcare provider.
  2. Prescription Only Medicines require a healthcare professional prescription to buy and consume as directed. Online medicine that one can order from online stores can be bought with or without a prescription.
  3. Controlled Drugs are the most serious category of drugs which are administered under observation. A medical professional maintains certain restrictions on how to dispense, store and administer the drugs. Having a control similar to prescription drugs, these drugs are also specifically listed under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971.
  4. Complementary medicines which are also known as traditional or alternative medicines include vitamin, mineral, herbal, aromatherapy, Ayurvedic medicine, and homeopathic medicine.

E- Medicine systems

India recognizes seven medicine systems, namely

  1. Ayurvedic medicine
  2. Siddha
  3. Unani
  4. Yoga
  5. Naturopathic medicine
  6. Homeopathic medicine
  7. Allopathic medicine

#2- Pharmaceutical Sector and Market of India

Indian pharmaceutical industry plays a prominent role in the global drug and medicines supply. India stands third worldwide for production volume and 14th by value. It is also the largest provider of generic medicines to other nations, occupying a 20% share of global supply volume. The lower cost involving the country’s medicine manufacturers attracts the highest number of US-FDA compliant pharmaceutical industries in the US, housing more than 3000 pharmaceutical companies and 10500 manufacturing units. Between April 2000 and December 2021, the Indian drugs and pharmaceutical sector received a cumulative foreign direct investment of USD 19.19 billion. The growth rate of drug sales varies from 10-12% annually and export growth of 18.7%. In Asia, it only ranks 4th after Japan, China, and South Korea. During the Covid-19 pandemic, India manufactured and supplied the highest volume of vaccines, surpassing 60% of the world’s volume. Not only is the expertise provided by the nation into production, but the major segments of the pharmaceutical industry also expanded to contract research of biosimilar and biologic drugs. According to the Indian Economic Survey 2021, the pharmaceutical market is expected to reach USD 65 billion by 2024 and is projected to grow two times by 2030.

#3- Largest Pharmaceutical distributors in India

Pharmaceutical manufacturing is the process of industrial-scale synthesis of drugs which includes unit operations such as formulation and pre-formulation development, milling, powder blending, granulation, coating, tablet pressing, and packaging. Medicine manufacture is divided into two major stages: the production of the active ingredient or drug and the conversion of the active drugs into products suitable for administration. The pharmaceutical industry’s products are supply managed by the intermediary of pharmaceutical distributors. A list of the famous ten Indian pharmaceutical super distributors who operate on a vertically integrated platform of drug distribution and supply chain management is given in Table 1.

Table 1: List of Pharma distributors in India

Pharmaceutical Distributor

Industrial Clients

Operational modules

  1. D Vijay Pharma Pvt. Ltd. 

Abbott, Adcock Ingram, Alembic Pharma, AstraZeneca, Bharat Serums and Vaccines Ltd, etc. 

Hospital Attached Pharmacy, Public Domain Pharmacy, Franchisee Pharmacy

  1. Gaia Pharmaceutical Trade

Cipla, Aristo, Abbott, Sun Pharma, Intas Pharma, German Remedies, etc.

Wholesale supply of pharmaceutical products, global drop-ship of orphan medicines, worldwide sourcing of orphan medicines, temperature control facility solutions, etc.

  1. Meher Distributors Pvt. Ltd.

Novartis India Ltd., Pfizer Ltd., Sanofi India Ltd., Torrent Pharma Ltd., Eris Life Sciences Pvt. Ltd., Glenmark Pharmaceutical Ltd., etc.

Super distribution, pharma logistics, exports and imports, and super specialty drug delivery. 

  1. Ator Healthcare Pvt. Ltd.

Maneesh Pharmaceuticals, Pfizer, Abbott, Jenburkt, Glowderma Lab Pvt. Ltd., Meyer Vitabiotics, etc.

Healthcare distribution and warehousing of pharmaceutical products, medical devices, and food products

  1. Jay Pharma 

Cachet Pharmaceuticals Pvt. Ltd., Pfizer, Lyka Labs,  Themis Medicare, Intermed, Wockhardt, Indoco, etc.

Bulk supply and logistics to prominent hospitals and public institutions

  1. Euphoria Healthcare Private Limited

Lumigan, British Nutritions, Vega, sunrise, etc.

Exporter, supplier of protein powder, protein powder supplements, health supplements, and other  pharmaceutical formulations

  1. Maiden Distributors Limited

Lupin, Ranbaxy, Alembic, GlaxoSmithKline, etc.

Warehousing, cold storage, documentation, procedures and records, deliveries and returns of products, emergency plan, inspection, and anti-counterfeit services.

  1. Rahul Distributors Pvt. Ltd.

Zydus, Karma Healthcare, Wallace, Uniwell Medicare Pvt. Ltd., Lupin, Noble Diagnostics Inc., etc.

Cold storage and warehousing, delivery, and agent-based services.

  1. K K Pharma

Cipla, Healing Pharma, Vea Impex, Solgar, etc.

Allopathic medicines distribution

  1. Shubham Pharmaceutical 

Cipla, Natco Pharma Ltd., Biocon, Hetero Healthcare Ltd., Celgene, Janssen Pharmaceutical Co., etc. 

Distribution and export of Anti-cancer, Anti-HIV, Hepatitis, and other Life-Saving medicines.


There is a variety of medicines available to the customer in need, and these can be obtained by directly buying over the pharmacy counter, online ordering, or in a serious situation, a healthcare professional will prescribe the required medications. The availability of the medicines at every retail junction is contributed by the active management of the medicine supply of the pharmaceutical distributor.

FAQs: Pharma distributors

Q. What is the role of a pharmaceutical distributor in the pharmaceutical supply chain?

Ans. The role of a pharmaceutical distributor is as an intermediary between the pharmaceutical industry and customers. Its operations include assembling, sorting, distributing, stocking, the information provided to customers, brand promoting, medical benefits knowledge provision, and retailing.

Q. How does a pharmaceutical distributor retail the medicines?

Ans. Medicines and other pharmaceutical products reach the customers through four distribution channels: direct sale, sale through retailers, wholesale, and agents.

Q. Why are generic medicines cheaper than branded medicines?

Ans. Generic medicines are cheaper than brand-name medicines because manufacturers do not have to spend money on their R&D, and buying the rights to market them.