Grey market vendors targeting pharmacy directors

December 10, 2013

Hospital pharmacy directors throughout Texas are being repeatedly targeted by grey market drug vendors, according to a new study led by a faculty member at the University of Texas.

Hospital pharmacy directors throughout Texas are being repeatedly targeted by grey market drug vendors, according to a new study led by a faculty member at the College of Pharmacy, University of Texas.

The study, “Grey Market Vendor Activities and Drug Shortages in Texas Acute Care Hospitals, analyzed responses from 125 hospital pharmacy directors. More than 85% have been contacted by grey market vendors offering to sell drugs in short supply, and almost 25% of respondents reported being asked to sell drugs they had in stock, according to the study led by Marvin Shepherd, PhD, Director of the Center for Pharmacoeconomic Studies, College of Pharmacy, at the University of Texas.

“The results were startling. If 25% of vendors are contacting hospitals to buy drugs from hospitals, then it seems obvious that some hospitals must be selling pharmaceuticals to vendors,” Shepherd said at the Partnership for Safe Medicines 2013 Interchange.

To find out whether hospitals are selling drugs legally to grey market vendors, Shepherd checked with the Texas Drug Wholesaler licensing group and found that only in special cases do hospitals have a drug wholesale license.

Many pharmacy directors reported repeated calls to try to buy or sell drugs in short supply. Other surprising findings included that vendors are not choosy about which hospitals are targeted. It does not matter how small or large the organization is and, most often, phone calls were the most common form of solicitation.

One third of hospitals that are part of a chain were contacted by grey market vendors, compared to 40% of non-chain hospitals. Hospitals with less than 100 beds were contacted most often (32%), followed by those with more than 250 beds (22%), and those with between 100 and 250 beds (19%).

Shepherd said the data is preliminary, but he is concerned that 25% of Texas hospital pharmacies have been contacted by grey market vendors to buy drugs. “I do not believe the size of this market is extremely large, but I do believe that it exists and needs to be monitored,” he said.