Pharmacy Billing and Reimbursement PTCB Test Prep

How to Order Medicines!

Apr 20th, 2020
how to order medicines

How are medicines ordered?

Working in the pharmacy setting means that you – as a prospective pharmacy technician – must understand the process by which medicines are correctly and legally ordered. Here, we review how to order medicines the right way.

Medicines can be ordered by a vast array of means. These include:

  • By telephone
  • By fax
  • Online
  • By mail
  • Directly to sales representative
  • Directly from the vendor

Each time that an order is made, a form – called the purchasing order (PO) form – must be filled out.

The purchasing order form always contains the following information:

  • Product ordered (medicine)
  • Quantity of product ordered
  • Cost of product
  • Purchase order number (PO #)
  • Company name
  • Terms of payment
  • Shipping address

When the products are delivered to the pharmacy, an invoice is issued – a document that confirms both the delivery and bill of sale (how much the products were purchased for, and from whom they were purchased – each of which is dated).

What is direct purchasing?

Sometimes medicines are ordered that bypass the wholesaler – what is referred to as “direct purchasing”. In other words, the medicines are directly purchased from the drug manufacturer.

As above, a PO must be completed.

Typically, direct purchasing is used for specific kinds of medicine, including:

  • Medicines with special storage instructions
  • Vaccines
  • Medicines with special shipping requirements
  • Medicines in limited supply
  • Orphan drugs – drugs used to treat a rare condition

There may be other incidences in which direct purchasing is used.

Where is most stock purchased from?

As you can infer from the list above, most medicines are not purchased direct from the drug manufacturer. Instead, most medicines are purchased through a wholesaler – the middleman between the pharmacy and the drug manufacturer.

This is known as prime vendor purchasing.

One of the advantages of prime vendor purchasing is that it permits the pharmacy to purchase many different drugs from one wholesaler. This makes the purchasing and drug acquisition process much simpler and more cost-effective. All medicines arrive in bulk at the pharmacy, with one delivery, and one invoice.

However, to establish a contract with a wholesaler, the wholesaler requires that a significant percentage of all drugs that the pharmacy needs are purchased through them – often 80+% of the pharmacy’s medicines.

As a pharmacy technician, you must have a solid understanding of how drugs are acquired by the pharmacy and what advantages and disadvantages are associated with each method.

Delivery of Medicines to the Pharmacy

Now that the medicines have been delivered to the pharmacy, what next?

Pharmacy technicians must be adept at maintaining drug inventory. This means accurately receiving and storing medicines. An inefficiently run inventory damages patient safety.

Once the shipment of medicines has arrived at the pharmacy, it must first be verified. It’s essential that the shipment is intact and has not been compromised in any way. Any abnormalities within the order or shipment must be documented.

The following details must be verified:

  • Verification of ship-to name and address on containers
  • Verification of the correct number of containers received
  • Inspecting each box to ensure there has been no damage
  • Cross-checking products received versus those listed on the PO

Finally, signing and dating and filing a copy of the PO or receiving slip.

Medicines must be verified, too, ensuring that products match – and are of the quality and standard expected – as ordered by the PO:

  • Name of product
  • Brand of product
  • Package size
  • Dosage form
  • Strength and/or concentration
  • Quantity of product

Furthermore, it’s vital that the expiration dates of medicines are inspected, too.

Medicines should be safely and accurately stored in their designated location. At the very outset, those medicines that require refrigeration or freezing should be managed first. It’s also important that pharmacy technicians understand the process of stock rotation – the need to place the earliest expiration date medicines in front and later expiration dates toward the back.

This ensures that the medicines with the shortest expiration dates are used before they are set to expire. Any stock that has since expired must be removed. There may also be products that are soon to expire. In these cases, it’s important to add a small tag to emphasize this fact.

Final Thoughts

Pharmacy technicians spend far more time handling and storing medicines, as well as overseeing inventory and medicine stock rotation. It’s imperative that prospective pharmacy technicians understand the process by which medicines are ordered and how they are received, stored, and managed.

On the PTCB exam, candidates can expect questions on inventory management and how to order medicines safely, accurately, and in alignment with existing legal regulations.

If you would like to test your knowledge of how to order medicines and inventory management, become a registered member of PTCB Test Prep to access practice tests that reflect the style and standard of questions you can expect to encounter on the day of your exam.  

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PTCB Test Prep Author


Elaine Walker

Elaine joined PTCB Test Prep in 2017, currently serving as the lead product development manager overseeing both course development and quality improvement. Mrs. Walker is a graduate of California State University and has worked as a pharmacy technician for over twenty years – with particular interests in pediatric pharmacy, extemporaneous compounding, and hospital pharmacy. Over the past 8-years, she has helped prepare thousands of students for the PTCB examination.