'Unlicensed sales', notices to 20 e-pharmacies : The Tribune India

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'Unlicensed sales', notices to 20 e-pharmacies

'Unlicensed sales', notices to 20 e-pharmacies

Photo for representation. File photo



Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 16

In the first major crackdown on the fast expanding market of online drug sales, the government has issued show-cause notices to 20 leading e-pharmacies for the sale and stocking of drugs in contravention of the existing laws.

The notices, issued on February 8, by the Drugs Controller General of India, direct e-pharmacy giants, including Amazon, Tata 1 mg, PharmEasy, Flipkart, Apollo and Practo to reply why they should not face action under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940. Pharmacies are yet to respond, sources said.

Threat to retail drug market

  • The expansion of online pharmacies has spurred concerns around patient data privacy and sale of contraband products, including drugs
  • Government estimates suggest online pharmacies could wipe out 30% of India’s existing retail drug market

The letter, top sources said, was the beginning of a tough stance the government is taking on e-pharmacies with a potential ban/regulation under serious consideration, though the route the government will take to effect such a ban is unclear. A top government source said Rule 64 of the Drugs Rules, 1945, clearly states that for the sale, stocking, exhibition or offer for sale and distribution of any drug, a licence is required to be obtained from the concerned state licensing authority and conditions of the licence are to be complied with by the licensee.

The Health Ministry is concerned about the online pharmacy market being used for the sale of contraband products, including liquor and drugs, in the absence of any regulation in the area.

Sources said although e-pharmacies sought to draw parallels with food service aggregators like Swiggy, this was not the case as drugs are a separate class of products governed by a standalone law.

The ministry has further estimated that online pharmacies could wipe out at least 30 per cent of India’s existing 12 lakh retail pharmacies, rendering most of these unviable.

The sources said some evidence of sale of contraband stuff through Internet pharmacies is already available.

“We have received various representations, raising concerns regarding sale of drugs through Internet or other electronic platforms in violation of the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940, and Drugs Rules, 1945. These sales include drugs specified under Schedule H, H1, and X, which are only allowed to be sold by retail under a valid prescription of a registered medical practitioner and supplied under the supervision of a registered pharmacist,” the government in its show-cause notice to 20 pharmacies has said. It is further learnt that the Chemist Association of India has threatened to go on strike should e-pharmacies be allowed to operate without having to procure a licence under the law.

Companies under scanner

Wellness Forever, Tala 1mg, PharmEasy, Metromedi, Medilite, mChemist Global, Flipkart, CareOnGo, Amazon, Zeelabs, TrueMeds; Practo, Netmeds, MedPlus, MediBuddy, Indian Chemist, Frank Ross, Apollo, and EasyMedico.

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