New Delhi, December 13: Selling medicines online is now illegal in India. India’s growing e-pharma industry has received a sickening blow.
The Delhi High court has ordered a complete ban on online pharmacies selling medicines across the country as the same it is not permitted under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940 and the Pharmacy Act, 1948.
A bench of Chief Justice Rajendra Menon and Justice V KRao also asked the Central Government to implement the same with immediate effect.
The order came after a petition filed by Delhi-based dermatologist Zaheer Ahmed through Advocate Nakul Mohta pointed out that the sale of drugs and prescription medicines online was illegal and without any mandate of law and, therefore, a health risk. Seeking Court’s intervention, the petition stated that,
“Unlike common items, drugs are highly potent and its misuse or abuse can have serious consequences on human health, not just for the one person consuming it but for humanity at large as some drugs can be addictive, habit-forming and harmful to the body. A large number of children/minor or people from uneducated rural background use the internet and can be victims of wrong medication while ordering medicines online.”
Zaheer Ahmed in his petition strongly asserted the fact that the Drug Controller General of India in 2015 had clearly directed all state drug controllers to protect public health by restraining such sale online. And yet, medicines continued to be traded online. Often, without prescriptions.
Blaming the government for not intervening at the right time, the petition further contended that Centre has always been aware of the risks involved in the sale of medicine on the internet. Earlier this year, for this purpose, a panel was also constituted which cautioned about the risks involved in the online sale of medicine, particularly, prescription, habit-forming and addictive medicines.
In September, with an aim to regulate the online sale of drugs, the Union Health Ministry had also come out with draft rules on “sale of drugs by e-pharmacy”. The rules stated that no person should offer, exhibit or keep a stock of drugs and sell them through an unregistered online platform. According to the draft guidelines, e-pharmacies have to register for a license with the Drug Controller General of India (DCGI), which will be valid for three years.
The PIL also argued that unregulated sale of medicines online would increase the risk of spurious, misbranded and substandard drugs including psychotropic substance being sold.
As many as 250 online pharmacies have sprung up in India in recent years. To woo customer, these online platforms, just like any other e-commerce website sell medicines at discounted prices with free home delivery. To this, traditional pharmacists contended that if such websites remain unregulated, their business will be affected.
According to a report by the Quartz, funding saw a sharp fall, with just $28.45 million invested in the sector in 2016, compared to $62.20 million in 2015.
State-wise a lot has been done to regulate the sprouting online market.
In November this year, the Madras High Court granted an interim injunction restraining the online sale of medicines till further orders. In 2015, two other states cracked down on online drug sales. Karnataka’s Drugs Control Department canceled the licenses of all online pharmacies, while Maharashtra Food and Drug Administration filed cases against several such e-retailers.
Nonetheless, a lot more has to be done to properly regulated the online market of medicines.