The chorus to restrict online sale of drugs, especially prescription drugs, seems to be getting stronger by the day with the Indian Pharmacist Association (IPA) too joining the league. It has written to the Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) for not allowing online pharmacies in India in view of larger public interest.
Earlier, the All India Organisation of Chemists and Druggists (AIOCD) which represents over 700,000 retail druggists in the country had also opposed online sale of drugs and urged the government to put a curb on the same.
The issue came into focus after the Maharashtra Food and Drug Administration filed a first information report (FIR) against e-commerce site Snapdeal.com's chief for online sale of prescription drugs in May. Ever since, several state FDAs have cracked down on such e-retailers that were selling prescription drugs in their jurisdiction. For example, the Gujarat Food and Drug Control Administration (FDCA) had cracked down on a Surat-based firm Prowisor Pharma, an online pharmacy last month.
H G Koshia, commissioner of Gujarat FDCA said that only a licensed retailer is allowed to sell prescription drugs as per law. "The Surat-based company did not have the requisite license. We are keeping a vigil on tracking such activities in the state."
The promoter of a Gujarat-based online pharmacy which deals in over-the-counter drugs said on grounds of anonymity that the state FDCA is indeed keeping up vigil and has also briefed all online retailers to strictly abide by law.
Sources in the AIOCD said that they are waiting to hear from the DCGI in this regard. "We have already urged the government and the ministry of chemicals and ferilisers which governs this area needs to come up with a clear stand on the issue," said a senior official in the association. It has been learnt that the DCGI is planning to study the existing online drug trade regulations that are practised internationally, and come out with a specific set of rules on online drug retailing in India. The issue is likely to be discussed by the Drug Consultative Committee (DCC).
Koshia also highlighted that in order to stock prescription drugs one ought to have a license, and if online pharmacies do not have that then it creates a legal issue. The problem arises when lack of clarity and adequate regulation of the e-commerce sector gives way to sites selling prescription drugs.
Bhupendra Kumar, general secretary, IPA said, "According to Pharmacy Act, no person other than a registered pharmacist shall dispense any medicine on the prescription of a medical practitioner and whoever contravenes these provisions shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to six months."
He further added that there is already scarcity of jobs for pharmacists and online pharmacies will further worsen the condition.