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  • Maureen May

Medical Device Licensing for 3PLs: Guide for 3PL Compliance

In the rapidly evolving healthcare industry, the efficient management of the supply chain is crucial for the safe and timely delivery of medical devices. Third-party logistics providers (3PLs) play a vital role in ensuring that medical devices reach their intended destinations while complying with regulatory standards.

This article aims to provide a comprehensive guide to the state licensing and Federal registration requirements for 3PLs involved in the medical device industry. We will provide insights into topics such as understanding Federal and state 3PL medical device regulations, the state licensing application process, state tax registration requirements, and the role of a registered agent. By understanding and adhering to these requirements, 3PLs can ensure compliance and contribute to the overall safety and integrity of the healthcare supply chain.

Understanding the Role of 3PLs in the Healthcare Industry

Before delving into the intricacies of Federal and state licensing, it is important to understand the significant role that 3PLs play in the healthcare supply chain. 3PLs are responsible for providing or coordinating warehousing and other logistics services of medical devices on behalf of manufacturers, wholesale distributors, and dispensers of a medical device. The 3PL does not take ownership of the product and does not have responsibility to direct the sale or disposition of the medical device.

With the advent of eCommerce business models, the services offered by logistics providers have grown over the years. Today, there are four typical categories of 3PLs: standard 3PL providers, 3PL service developers, 3PL customer adapters, 3PL customer developers. The type of 3PL selected will depend on the particular business needs of the customer.

The Importance of State Medical Device Licensing for 3PLs

The medical device industry is highly regulated to ensure the safety and efficacy of healthcare products. Consequently, 3PLs operating in this industry must adhere to specific state licensing requirements to maintain compliance. Medical device licensing for 3PLs encompasses various aspects, including the handling, storage, and transportation of medical devices. These requirements are designed to safeguard product quality, prevent counterfeiting, and ensure traceability throughout the supply chain. By obtaining the necessary state licenses, 3PLs demonstrate their commitment to upholding industry standards and protecting patient safety.

FDA Medical Device Classifications

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is responsible for protecting the public health by ensuring the safety, efficacy, and security of medical devices. When it comes to medical devices, the FDA classifies devices into three categories based on the level of risk they pose to patients:

  1. Class I: Low-risk devices, such as tongue depressors and bedpans.

  2. Class II: Moderate-risk devices, such as surgical masks and powered wheelchairs.

  3. Class III: High-risk devices, such as pacemakers and artificial joints.

In addition to medical device class, the FDA also regulates which types of medical devices may be offered as either restricted (Rx) or over-the-counter (OTC) devices. Rx vs OTC classification depends on a number of factors, including the level of risk associated with the device, the level of supervision required for use, and intended use of the device.

As will be elaborated further, state licensing requirements for 3PLs managing medical device logistics will vary based on the types of medical devices handled.

Regulations Applicable to 3PLs

Various regulatory authorities, at the Federal, state, and local levels, have a stake in the safety and quality of healthcare products, including medical devices, being handled by 3PLs. We will focus on understanding the FDA’s and states’ roles in regulating 3PLs handling medical devices.

Understanding FDA’s Role in Medical Device Regulation in the Supply Chain

The US FDA is authorized under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA) to regulate the safety and effectiveness of medical devices. The FDA regulates over 190,000 different devices.

Medical device manufacturers, including contract and virtual manufacturers, device labelers, repackagers, and importers, are subject to a number of requirements to ensure devices are not adulterated or misbranded and to assure their safety and effectiveness. If FDA determines regulated establishments are in violation of FFDCA requirements or regulations, the agency can take corrective action against the establishment.

What are FDA Registration Requirements for a 3PL?

FDA requires that establishments involved in the manufacturing and importing of medical devices intended for commercial distribution in the U.S. register annually with the FDA. Most registered establishments must also list the devices and the activities performed on those devices at the establishment.

While FDA regulates many business categories involved in the medical device realm, 3PLs managing logistics for only medical device products are not required to register with the FDA.

However, if the 3PL also handles prescription drugs or food, in addition to medical devices, registration with the FDA may be required. It is important for the 3PL to understand all products handled at the facility to ensure appropriate FDA registration requirements are met.

Understanding States’ Role in Medical Device Licensing for 3PLs

At the state level, the responsibility for protecting the health and safety of its residents by regulating the manufacturing, distribution and sale of medical devices is delegated to individual state agencies. To ensure the safety and efficacy of medical devices, states regulate multiple supply chain partners involved in medical device commerce in their state.

Third-party logistics providers manage physical warehouses throughout the US and direct shipment of medical devices into every state. Therefore, state agencies concerned with protecting safety may choose to regulate 3PLs involved in medical device distribution in their state.

State Licensing Requirements for 3PLs Handling Medical Devices

For 3PLs involved in the storage, handling, and distribution of medical devices, obtaining proper state licensing is crucial to ensure compliance with state healthcare product regulations. Specific requirements for medical device licensing vary across every state and depend on facility location, medical device category (Rx vs OTC), and regulatory definitions.

Here are the key steps involved in the state licensing process:

Step 1: Understand the Medical Device Categories in the Supply Chain

The first step for a 3PL is to understand the categories of medical devices to be managed by the 3PL. Specifically, the 3PL must determine if Rx and/or OTC medical devices will be handled by the 3PL.

Approximately 20 states regulate Rx medical devices manufactured, distributed, and sold into their state. Fewer states regulate OTC medical devices. To avoid applying for unnecessary licenses, the 3PL should understand the medical device categories for which logistics services will be provided.

If, in addition to medical devices, the 3PL will provide logistics services for drugs and/or food, additional state food and/or drug licensure may be required.

Step 2: Identify Appropriate State Licensing Agency

Every state has an agency responsible for regulating the manufacturing, distribution, sale, and dispensing of healthcare products in their state. In most cases, the responsible agency is the state board of pharmacy. In some states, responsibility for medical device distribution is delegated to the department of health or department of consumer protection. A directory of state licensing agencies can be found here.

Step 3: Determine the Applicable Licensing Requirements for 3PLs

Once the appropriate licensing agency is identified, the next step to determining licensing is to understand which states regulate medical devices. Approximately 20 states regulate Rx medical devices, while fewer states regulate OTC medical devices.

State regulations must be further reviewed to determine if the specific devices handled by the 3PL are regulated. The definition of medical device varies by state. States may exempt medical devices that are for use by physicians in their practice or prepared and prescribed for a specific patient.

After states regulating medical devices are identified, the final step to identifying licensing requirements is to determine which states regulate 3PLs as a supply chain partner. Some states specifically exclude 3PLs from healthcare products regulations, while some states require 3PLs to obtain 3PL licensure. And some states require 3PLs be licensed as wholesale distributors.

Step 4: Prepare and Submit the Licensing Applications

Once the necessary licensing determinations have been made, the 3PL can proceed with preparing and submitting licensing applications to each state agency. The application will include detailed information about company ownership, responsible personnel, facility operations, and specific activities performed in relation to medical devices.

As part of the application, some states require the name and address of a registered agent. The registered agent is a person or company located in the state where licensure is needed. The registered agent is authorized to receive formal communication and official documents from the agency for forwarding to the applicant.

In addition to registered agent, tax registration is another important consideration for 3PLs applying for state licensure. Some states require documentation of registration with the secretary of state in order to do business (i.e., collect sales tax) in the state. Registration requirements are linked to state tax regulations, including sales tax and use tax requirements. 3PLs must carefully analyze their tax obligations and register accordingly.

Step 4: Prepare for State Agency Inspection and Compliance

As part of the licensing process, the resident state agency or another approved organization may conduct an inspection of the 3PL's facility to ensure compliance with regulatory standards. These inspections may include assessments of storage conditions, handling procedures, and documentation practices. It is essential for the 3PL to be prepared and maintain a state of readiness for any inspections.

State Licensing Cost and Timing

The cost of applying for state licensure can vary from a few hundred dollars up to several thousand dollars per application. Required payment methods may be by check or online credit card.

Application review and approval can take anywhere from one month to several months, depending on the state agency. Delays may be experienced if the facility requires an in-state license as the in-state license must be issued first before other states will issue a license in their state

Ongoing Compliance and Reporting Requirements

Once the medical device license has been obtained, the 3PL must maintain ongoing compliance with state regulations. This may include regular reporting, record-keeping, and adherence to quality control processes. The 3PL must also stay up to date with any changes or updates to state regulations that may impact their operations.

Licensing Renewal and Business Change Reporting

Medical device licenses expire and expiration dates and renewal requirements must be carefully tracked to avoid a missed renewal deadline. While some states offer a simple online renewal process, some states require paper renewal applications and supporting documentation.

When business operations change, such as ownership, business location, and key personnel, timely notification of changes is required. The steps and timelines for providing required notifications vary by state. State regulations and agency guidelines must be carefully reviewed to ensure necessary notifications are made to ensure license compliance.

What are the Consequences for Not Adhering to Licensing Requirements?

Failing to meet the regulations of 3PL providers can have serious consequences, including expensive fines, stop orders, and revoking of the license. Violations and disciplinary actions taken against the 3PL by one state are often reportable to other states where licenses are held by the 3PL.

In addition, FDA and state regulations require supply chain trading partners to conduct business with authorized trading partners that are properly registered in regulated states. If a trading partner discovers that a 3PL is not licensed appropriately, that business could be blocked from the drug distribution supply chain. Thus, it is clear compliance is essential for both operational and financial success.


Third-party logistics providers play an essential role in ensuring safe and efficient management of the healthcare supply chain. Both Federal and state regulations apply to 3PLs and the medical devices they handle. Obtaining required state medical device licenses is a critical step in ensuring compliance with regulations and providing high-quality services to clients in the healthcare and pharmaceutical industries.

By following the necessary licensing steps, establishing robust quality management systems, and maintaining ongoing compliance, 3PLs can navigate the complex landscape of medical device regulations and contribute to the safety of the supply chain.

The team of experts at Complete Compliance Solutions are here to help with the complicated and time-consuming licensing requirements of 3PLs. We manage the paperwork for your 3PL license applications and follow the application process through the regulatory review stages to facilitate timely issuance of licenses. And, when licenses are ready to renew, we’ll assist with the renewal process to avoid lapses in licensing and maintain ongoing compliance.

Contact us to learn more about our licensing services.

Author: Maureen May


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