The All India Organisation of Chemists and Druggists (AIOCD) has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi requesting the government to remove e-pharmacies from the Aarogya Setu Mitr portal.
In the letter, the lobby group, which has a network of over 850K chemist outlets, alleged that several foreign-funded and illegally operating online pharmacies or e-pharmacies are using the portal to advance their business interests in India.
The government had launched the Mitr portal to offer free telemedicine and consultation services for coronavirus-related inquiries and to make Aarogya Setu a one-stop solution for all healthcare and Covid-19 prevention needs. Aarogya Setu Mitr also allows users to book doorstep lab tests.
The portal also lists e-pharmacies and redirects users to such platforms from where they can buy medicines. As of now, online pharmacy platforms such as 1mg, PharmEasy, NetMeds and MedLife are selling medicines on the portal.
AIOCD said that the organisation is shocked and concerned that www.aarogyasetumitr.in is being used by foreign-funded and illegally operating e-pharmacies to advance their business interests in India even though the business model adopted by the e-pharmacies is illegal and injuncted by orders of the Delhi high court. “It can cause grave damage to the health and well being of citizens,” AIOCD’s letter was quoted by the Economic Times.
The lobby group further added that listing e-pharmacies is discriminatory and unfair to retailers, which can home deliver medicines but have not been given market exposure through the Aarogya Setu application or the Mitr portal.
In the letter, general secretary at AIOCD Rajiv Singhal noted that these e-pharmacies being linked to Aarogya Setu application is a matter of greater concern since the faith reposed by the public in the application is being betrayed by allowing illegal e-pharmacies to operate in India.
Meanwhile, the letter has also called the government’s criteria, which the authorities used to select e-pharmacies for delivering medicines to home, as irrational, unfair and arbitrary. It also alleged that the decision was taken by vested interests to exclude individual retailers who are selling medicines in compliance with the law and are also providing the facility of home delivery.
Finally, the letter urged the government to remove these online pharmacies from the Aarogya Setu Mitr platform. Earlier, Swadeshi Jagran Manch’s Ashwani Mahajan had also pointed out that Arogya Setu app is promoting e-pharma companies. In a series of tweets, Mahajan said that by offering huge discounts and “threatening neighbourhood pharmacy shops”.