With the government announcing a 21-day lockdown to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, people have locked themselves inside their homes. In such a situation those who need medicines are relying on online medicine delivery platforms such as Netmeds, Medlife, among others.
But given the lower coverage area for online pharmacies, a large portion of the Indian population would not be able to avail these services. Many cities and smaller towns are still dependent on retail pharmacies and consumers here are facing difficulties in procuring medicines. To solve their woes, the union health ministry, citing lockdown, announced that retail pharmacies can now directly deliver medicines to customers. The ministry said that this will help restrict the movement of people further. For this, the health ministry has invoked Section 26B of the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940.
The health ministry, on Thursday (March 26), published a notification which said that the central government is satisfied that retail sale of drugs to the doorstep of consumers is essential to meet the requirements of consumers. “In the public interest, it is necessary and expedient to regulate the sale and distribution of drugs for their delivery to consumers,” the health ministry added.
There are no restrictions for the sale of most of the medicines, however, for the sale of any drug which falls under Schedule H of the Drugs and Cosmetic Act, the retail pharmacies need to inspect the medical prescription physically or via email before selling them. Also, the delivery of narcotics, psychotropics and controlled substances have been banned by the ministry.
For this, a licensed pharmacy has to register with the licensing authority. The registered pharmacies also have to furnish their email IDs to accept prescriptions from customers. Moreover, the pharmacies can only sell these drugs if the prescription is issued within 30 days from a licensed practitioner.
In the initial days of the lockdown, most of the online pharmacies have witnessed a surge in the number of orders, according to a Business Standard report. However, with most of the states disrupting their operations and courier partners not able to deliver these orders.
As of now, the pharmacies can only deliver medicines to the patients located within their district. The ministry has also asked retailers to send cash memo by return mail and to record all such transactions for the future.