Indian epharmacy players face an uncertain future as the government continues to drag its heels on formulating a regulatory framework for the epharmacy sector. As a response, an extension has come in with the government telling the Delhi High Court that it is still considering the rules of epharmacies.
In a statement to the division bench of Chief Justice DN Patel and Justice C Hari Shankar, government’s standing counsel Kirtiman Singh said that steps have been taken to formulate the rules and the process of consideration is on.
The rules being referred are draft epharmacy rules, which were notified in September 2018. The draft epharmacy rules note that those selling drugs and cosmetics online, have to obtain licences in the manner prescribed, within a period of two months from the date of notification.
However, the next month started a slew of concerns for epharmacy companies when in October 2018, the Madras High Court announced a ban on the online sale of medicines. The same was followed by the Delhi High Court and by January 2019, the ban on epharmacies was stayed till a decision is announced in the matter.
The companies informed the court, through the appeal, that they are not violating any rules or regulations under the act. There are two types of online pharmacies, one acting as aggregators to connect registered pharmacists and the consumer and the other which have their own registered pharmacists, medicine stocks and sales licenses under existing regulations.
In February, hearing, Delhi High Court was upset with the Centre “on playing delaying tactics” with draft epharmacy rules. Further, the Delhi High Court asked the Central government to submit a status report on the epharmacy rules, at the earliest. It also asked epharmacy companies to submit their counter-affidavit within the next four weeks.
The hearing on May 9 was delayed to today (July 4) where considering the fact that the process of consultation was still on, the Delhi High Court adjourned the matter. It also granted more time to the Centre to file its response to the contempt plea. The matter will be heard next on September 24.
The good thing here is that the court case hasn’t shelved investor and consumer interest in the sector. Over the last few months, epharmacy startups such as 1MG, Medlife, PharmEasy etc have raised nearly $80 Mn in funding from existing and new investors.
India’s pharmaceutical industry, which was valued at $33 Bn in 2017, is expected to expand at a CAGR of 22.4% over 2015–20 to reach $55 Bn.