E-Pharma companies (the ones which let you buy medicines online) may soon face some serious hurdles to carry out their business. According to the latest order issued by the drug regulator in India, Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) has put a ban on the sale of online medicines and drugs.
The ban however is temporary until the report comes out from a 7-member committee which was constituted in December for finding out the potential consequences of such online drug sales. The committee is headed by Dr Harshadeep Kamble (Commissioner, food and drugs administration, Maharashtra) and will submit its findings to the centre.
Earlier in June, the Government had appointed industry body FICCI as the nodal agency to regulate the online drug selling business and set the required framework and guidelines for the same.
The e-pharma business has also met with severe criticism from All India Organisation of Chemists and Druggists (AIOCD), a body comprising of many offline chemists. The protest however, continues to show how India’s traditional businesses fear of new-age companies as the latter ones are much more organised, legit and much more convenient — all finally leading to lessening consumers for the traditional, offline stores.
To register their protest against the regulation of online drug selling by the Government, over 8.5 lakhs
chemists under AIOCD had observed a 1 day strike in October last year demanding a ban on the online sale of drugs.
They are of the opinion that online drug sale will not only affect the business and families of over 8 lakh chemists and 80 lakh employees across India but will also lead to reckless consumption of drugs without any medical recommendation . They also claimed that online selling of drugs violate the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940 and the Drugs and Cosmetics Rules, 1945.
According to these laws,medicinal drugs cannot be sold without the prescription of a registered medical
practiononer. AIOCD has further accused online companies of compromising storage conditions required for transport of medicines as they supply through local courier companies and also makes the recall
of drugs virtually impossible.
It is noteworthy that last year, Maharashtra’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had issued an FIR against Kunal Bahl, CEO of Snapdeal for allegedly selling drugs such as Sildenafil citrate tablets (Viagra), that only urologists, psychiatrists, endocrinologists and dermatologists could prescribe.
In addition, the marketplace was also selling OTC emergency contraceptives. These drugs are to be sold only on the prescription issued by certified medical practitioners . After that, Snapdeal had taken off all the medical and health related products from its marketplace. A Surat based e-pharma company called Prowisor Pharma too was raided by Gujarat FDI regulator last year and was found selling drugs worth Rs.7 lakh online.
This seems like a traditional debate associated with the disruption of traditional methods of doing business with technology. The domestic drug market in India is pegged at about $10 billion and offers a huge
potential for disruption through online retailing.
However, there are safety concerns particularly related to the prescription verification etc, but once those are resolved and proper rules and framework related to online e-pharma is laid, there seems no particularly serious concern which can lead to a permanent ban on online selling — except of course the traditional offline chemist guys make up another India-wide strike for their own gains.