Founded in Indianapolis in 1968 by Terre Haute native William E. Bindley, the company was the fifth-largest supplier of pharmaceutical, health, and beauty products in the United States in the mid-1990s. Its nationwide distribution system served chain drug stores, such as CVS and Walgreen’s, and independent pharmacies, hospitals, and HMOs.

Interior of a warehouse with floor-to-ceiling, open metal shelving and many packing boxes. The forklift operator is front and center.
A worker operates a forklift to move pharmaceuticals at the Bindley Western Industries distribution center, 2000 Credit: IndyStar View Source

In 1988, when one of its largest clients, Revco, filed for bankruptcy owing Bindley Western $16 million, the wholesaler began diversifying into the direct sales market. Following a 1985 federal investigation, four Bindley Western managers pleaded guilty to illegal purchasing practices and the company pleaded guilty to federal mail fraud charges. These problems prevented Bindley Western from acquiring much new business until the early 1990s.

During the consolidation of drug companies in the 1990s, Bindley Western purchased smaller wholesalers, won a contract to supply the Kroger Company, which included Hook’s Drug Stores and SupeRX drugstores, and began direct shipments to pharmacies. In 1992 the company recorded sales of $2.91 billion and profits of $12.89 million, a 13.4 percent increase from the previous year. By 1993 Bindley Western operated 14 computerized distribution warehouses across the United States and employed 600. The company was publicly traded on the New York Stock Exchange starting in the 1980s.

By 1997, other large pharmaceutical wholesalers began buying smaller companies to increase their power as large-volume suppliers to small accounts. Bindley Western lost to this competition and sold its operation to Dublin, Ohio-based Cardinal Health, Incorporated, in 2001.

Revised February 2021

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