To help citizens locked down in their homes, the Ministry of Health on Thursday allowed doorstep delivery of drugs.
The health ministry invoked section 26B of the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940 to facilitate the doorstep delivery of drugs to consumers. “Central government is satisfied that retail sale of drugs to the doorstep of consumers is essential to meet the requirements of emergency arising due to pandemic COVID-19 and in the public interest, it is necessary and expedient to regulate the sale and distribution of drugs for their delivery to the consumers,” it said in the notification.
It added that any person holding a licence under Form 20 or Form 21 under the Drugs and Cosmetics Rules of 1945 to sell, stock or distribute drugs by retail can participate. The licensee needs to submit an e-mail id for registration with the licensing authority if prescriptions are to be received through email.
The drugs shall be supplied at the doorstep of the patients located within the same revenue district where the licensee is located. The bill or cash memo shall be sent by return mail and records of all such transactions shall be maintained by the licensee, the ministry notification said.
Medicines that fall under Schedule H category (class of prescription drugs) would be provided against a valid prescription that can be submitted either physically or over e-mail. In case of chronic diseases, the prescription shall be dispensed only if it is presented to the licensee within 30 days of issue, and in acute cases the prescription shall be dispensed only if it is presented to licensee within seven days of issue.
Narcotics, psychotropics and controlled substances, though, cannot be delivered.
However, online pharmacies say that they are trying to work out ways of participating in this as they are facing logistical issues.
E-pharmacies that have witnessed a huge surge in demand after the COVID-19 breakout say many issues need to be addressed.
“This is a good effort by the government to ensure citizens do not step out of their homes. However, we are still figuring out how to participate. The current challenge is courier companies are not accepting orders and we urge the government to step in,” said a senior official of a leading e-pharmacy.
He added that the government needs to build a mechanism by which courier companies can accept and deliver orders for medicines. Most e-pharmacies deliver through courier firms as they do not have dedicated delivery staff.
Delhi withdraws order
However, on the day Delhi police withdrew an order it had issued earlier allowing several online retail firms to restart their delivery services in the national capital with “immediate effect”, officials said.
The police had issued a statement directing its personnel to allow persons and vehicles engaged in essential services to operate in Delhi and listed names of retailers and online delivery services that should be allowed to function. Bengaluru police, too, issued similar orders.
However, the Delhi police order was withdrawn with immediate effect hours after it was issued, stating that revised guidelines will be released and all traffic, picket and beat staff would be briefed accordingly.
The police did not cite any reason for withdrawing its previous order, but a senior police official said essential supplies would continue and a uniform order across states would be issued soon.
This comes a day after the Delhi police held a meeting with representatives of e-commerce platforms to ensure uninterrupted supply of essential goods and services during the 21-day lockdown enforced to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus.