Govt puts a FULL STOP on E-pharmacies running without licences, directs necessary action
New Delhi: The apex drug regulatory body, Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation's (CDSCO) recently issued orders to impose a ban on unlicensed platform-e-pharmacies, until the government finalises draft rules to regulate e-pharmacies are finalized and put in place.
The order came through an order issued by Dr V G Somani, Drugs Controller General of India(DCGI) on November 28 2019, directing all states and Union Territories to prohibit the sale of drugs by online pharmacies as per the Delhi High Court order. The order further asked all drug regulators in states and Union Territories to take "necessary action" to enforce the court order.
The court while hearing a PIL by Zaheer Ahmed in December 2018 had ordered the ban on the sale of illegal or unlicensed online sale of medicines till the government drafts rules to regulate e-pharmacies.
In September, the government, in an affidavit submitted to Delhi High Court, said it is in the process of finalising the draft rules for regulating e-pharmacies after going through representations of all stakeholders.
Ahmed, in his PIL, had said that the online illegal sale of medicines would lead to a drug epidemic, drug abuse and misuse of habit-forming and addictive drugs, report PTI.
He also moved a contempt plea in April, contending that the e-pharmacies continue to "blatantly" violate the high court direction and the central government was not doing anything to stop it following which the court issued notices to the Centre and some e-pharmacies.
In response, E-pharmacies in July told the Court that they do not require a license for the online sale of drugs and prescription medicines as they do not sell them, instead they are only delivering the medications akin to food-delivery app Swiggy.
In the PIL, Ahmed also said since there was no mechanism to control the sale of medicines online, this puts health and lives of people at high risk and affects their right to a safe and healthy life under Article 21 of the Constitution.
Ahmed claimed that the Ministry of Health, Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation and an expert committee appointed by the drug consultative committee have already concluded that the online sale of medicines is in contravention of the provisions of Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940 and the other allied laws.
Still lakhs of drugs are being sold on internet every day, it said, adding that some of the drugs/medicines contain narcotic and psychotropic substances and some can even cause antibiotic resistant-bacteria which is a threat not only to the patient but to the humanity at large.
As per a recent media report by Live Mint, despite the prohibitory orders to shut operations of selling drugs online, e-pharmacy firms claim that the move will hardly affect their business as their modus operandi is via licensed offline pharmacies.
However, a large number of skilled professionals attached to the e-pharmacy business is likely to be impacted by the move more than the customers as the e-pharmacy sector is catering to around 50 lakh patients per month and is growing rapidly attracting further investments, reports TOI.
Commenting on the move, senior executive from an e-pharmacy told Business Standard, "If the government decides to implement such a thing, we would definitely challenge it in the court of law. Moreover, if you follow this, then generating orders over phone calls or even through social media platforms like Whatsapp is not covered under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, which is common practice for brick-and-mortar stores."