The Delhi High Court on Wednesday ordered a ban on sale of online medicines by online pharmacists across the country, according to a report by The Times of India. The HC has asked the Centre and the AAP government to immediately implement the order.
The order was passed by a bench comprising Chief Justice Rajendra Menon and Justice V K Rao while acting on a PIL filed by Delhi-based dermatologist Zaheer Ahmed. He complained that several thousands of medicines were sold with regulation everyday which posed a huge risk to patients and doctors equally.
He also pointed out in his PIL that online sale of medicines is not permitted under the Drugs and Cosmetocs Act 1940 and Pharmacy Act, 1948. He also highlighted that even though the Drug Controller EGneral of India in 2015 had directed all state controllers to protect the interest of public health by curbing online sale, several thousands of medicines continued to be sold online, often without a prescription. This violate the citizen's Right to Life guranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution.
The petition also claims that sale of drugs through e-pharmacies increase the risk of self-medication wwithout prescription as well as sale of psychotropic substances.
According to Bar and Bench, earlier this year, the Madras High Court had granted an injunction restraining the unlicensed sale of medicines and drugs online, in a plea moved by Tamil Nadu Chemists and Druggists Association (TNCDA).
The PIL says that Centre is well aware of the risks involved in sale of medicines on internet as a panel set up by it had cautioned it about the same as late as September.
Centre establishing legal framework to regulate online sale of medicines
The Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940, governs sale of medicines in India. Medicines can be sold from licensed premises only. The Act does not cover e-pharmacies at present and the government had decided to appoint a sub-committee, after receiving complaints of violations.
While the domestic pharmaceutical market size is around Rs 1.25 trillion, e-pharmacies constitute a minuscule portion of it. The collective sales are estimated to be around Rs 2 billion annually.
Under the proposed rules, individuals or companies will have to register with the central licensing authority to run an e-pharmacy; state-wide registration is not required.
According to the rules, the e-pharmacy registration holder shall inform the central licensing authority regarding changes in constitution of the firm. A fresh registration will be required in the case of such changes and existing registration will be valid only for three months, it added. The e-pharmacy will have to mention on the website its constitution, details of directors and partners, name of logistics service provider, and return policy for dispensed drugs.
Sources say brick-and-mortar chemists, too, have to inform about changes in their constitution to the licensing authority, but there is no requirement for them to display directors' names and shareholding details on their premises.
The e-pharmacy will have to adhere to provisions of the Information Technology Act.
The rules specify procedures for sale through an e-pharmacy. These state that on receipt of prescription, the registered pharmacist shall verify the details of the patient, registered medical practitioner and arrange the supply of drugs. The drugs will be dispensed through any licensed retailer or wholesaler of medicines. The details of the drugs dispensed, including the patient details, shall be maintained on the e-pharmacy portal.