With the growth of online pharmacies, a huge setback for the industry is on its way as the Madras High Court on Wednesday granted interim injunction announcing a ban on the online sale of medicines till the next hearing i.e. November 9.
According to reports, the order by Justice R Mahadevan comes after a plea moved by the Chennai-based Tamil Nadu Chemists and Druggists Association seeking a direction to authorities concerned to block links of websites that are selling medicines online.
In its order, the court has directed the Centre to file its counterpoint and scheduled the next hearing.
The Chennai-based association believes that though online shopping might be convenient to consumers, purchasing medicines from unlicensed online stores can be risky as they may sell fake, expired, contaminated, unapproved drugs or otherwise unsafe products that are dangerous to patients and which might put their health at risk.
Notably, the laws for pharmacies in India are derived from Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940, Drugs and Cosmetics Rule, 1945 and Pharmacy Act, 1948.
These laws were written prior to the arrival of computers and India does not have any concrete laws defined for the online sale of medicines, the association submitted.
Though various amendments have been made to the Act no provision has been made to utilise information technology for sale of medicines online, it said.
One of the major epharmacy player PharmEasy’s co-founder Dharmil Sheth told Inc42 that the actual court order is not yet available and at the outset, this seems to in line with the notification from CDSCO on Dec 30 2017.
Last year, the government issued a draft of the Drugs (Sale and Distribution) Rules 2017, aiming at removing ambiguity on regulations to facilitate sales of drugs online.
According to the draft rules, which came out in March this year, no one can operate an online pharmacy without registering with the Central Licensing Authority and the supply of drugs by an online pharmacy will be regulated.
In April this year, the country’s apex drug regulator and central licensing authority mooted for a draft on online pharmacies regulations, to further increase consumers trust on the online pharmacy platforms.
Prashant Tandon, founder and CEO, 1MG reiterated that same highlighting that given that all the members of digital health platforms are the high-quality players that operate in full compliance with these requirements, they welcome any move towards identifying and taking action against those players who are violating the Act.
“The Act applies to all players, whether online or offline, and any player found selling prescription medicines without prescriptions or without registered pharmacists dispensing from licensed premises, whether online or offline, should be checked by the regulator. Prima Facie, this should not affect members of DHP: however we can offer a full response once we see the final order,” Sheth added.
At the same time, Pradeep Dadha – Founder and CEO, Netmeds.com told Inc42 that its legal team will examine the implications of the ruling.
The latest controversy comes soon after the Union Health Ministry released a notification, according to which, the epharmacies are given a set of regulations including data localisation and other sets of rules regarding registration. The draft rules also require online pharmacies to be registered with the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO), the country’s apex drug regulator and central licensing authority and obtain a trade licence.
The All India Organisation of Chemists and Druggists (AIOCD) had opposed the government’s decision of epharmacy regulation and called in a day-long nationwide strike on September 27.
The agitations erupting in India’s pharmaceutical industry, which was valued at $33 Bn in 2017, may have a major impact on the sector’s growth which is expected to expand at a CAGR of 22.4% over 2015–20 to reach $55 Bn.
[The development was reported by PTI.]