To safeguard patient privacy and protecting sensitive personal medical data, necessary regulations need to be enforced until the country legislates its data protection law, the Competition Commission of India said in a study released on Thursday.
It further said that online pharmacies should adopt self-regulatory measures in the areas of collection, use, sharing of data and privacy.
"The antitrust law in India is wide enough to enable the assessment of any competition harm that may be caused by disproportionate collection/use of data by digital entities with market power. The online pharmacies should adopt self-regulatory measures in the areas of collection, use, sharing of data and privacy.
"However, for safeguarding patient privacy and protecting sensitive personal medical data, necessary regulations need to be enforced until the country legislates its data protection law," the regulator said in a market study on the pharmaceutical sector in India.
Discounts offered by online pharmacies and concentration of personal health data with few platforms are the key concerns in respect of online pharmacies, CCI noted.
"In view of the emerging trend of provision of integrated end-to-end offerings by e-pharmacies spanning across teleconsultation, diagnostics, drugs, nutraceuticals, etc., concerns were also raised regarding the platforms gaining control over sensitive personal data of consumers," it added.
While data and digital technology, when effectively leveraged, can improve access to and efficiency of healthcare delivery, concentration of data with few platforms raise concerns over collection, storage, security, and sharing of such data.
The study said that online pharmacies are relatively new in India.
However, this segment is growing, and the pandemic has provided a significant impetus to online purchase of products, including drugs.
"The study findings suggest that online and offline modes of distribution will co-exist, with the share of online likely to go up in the categories of medicines for chronic conditions, while offline is likely to retain its position and share in the drugs for acute care," it further said.
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