Repeated questioning has taken place regarding the legality of online pharmaceutical distribution companies ever since the regime took shape in the country. One needs to be a registered pharmacist to sell prescription medicines in India. To buy medicines online, the buyer has to upload the prescription. Due to the lack of registered licenses, e-pharmacies are suspected of illegal drug distribution. Leading pharma company Health Biotech’s director has raised concerns and called for updated regulations to govern such pharmacies.
The sale of prescription drugs on e-pharmacies raises objections as such distribution contravenes the Drugs and Cosmetics Act of 1940. In this regard, the Government has sent show cause notices to more than 20 online pharmacy companies asking them, ‘Why action shall not be taken against them for online sale of such drugs?’. The companies which have received notices include Tata1mg, Practo, Netmeds, and Pharmeasy among many others, and if they fail to respond, the Government has assured strict actions against them.
Paramjit Arora’s Health Biotech, a leading pharma manufacturer has expressed concerns over the recent happenings. “Selling medicines without a proper license is worrisome. It gives a free pass to people looking to sell counterfeit drugs and it’s good that the authorities have taken a much-needed step to put an end to this. People’s health is not a casual matter and exposing them to such a fraud puts their lives in danger,” says Paramjit Arora Health Biotech Director.
The Rules and Regulations for e-Pharmacies
In 2016 the Federation of Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry presented a self-regulation code for online pharmacies which covered several aspects like prescription drug sales, customer grievance handling, and ensuring that medicines are dispensed through registered pharmacies. However, the code was not a law and hence there was a lack of surveillance on the operational activities of e-pharmacies. To ensure that, the Government came up with a set of regulations to track and govern e-pharmacies in 2018, which due to its slow pace of application, failed to successfully affect the system over the years.
In reply to an RTI filed by Medianama last year, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare said “In response to the draft rules, a number of comments/suggestions objections from stakeholders were received from the stakeholders. The finalization proposal is extensively being examined by the Central Government and it may not be possible to say any timelines at this stage for finalization of the draft rules.”
The Future of e-Pharmacies
As of now, the proceedings under the situation stand unknown. The Government is considering all the scenario aspects and examining the companies’ responses to the show cause notices. Paramjit Arora, Health Biotech Director, has suggested that this problem can be solved by introducing a new set of rules clubbed with the application of necessary amendments within the current governing regulations. While much remains unknown about the future of e-pharmacies in India, it is expected that the Government will speed up the inquiry and will come up with the necessary set of regulations for the industry.🔥38