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Modi Government issues order to stop sale of online medicines

Government has issued an order to stop sale of online medicines till the draft rules for regulation of e-Pharmacies are finalised and come into force. The order issued on 28 November, 2019 by V G Somani, Drug Controller General (India), has directed all states and union territories to prohibit sale of medicines through online platforms without licenses with immediate effect.

The letter reviewed by Mint has cited “the order” by the Delhi High Court issued on 12 December 2018 in the matter of Dr Zaheer Ahmed Vs Union of India. The Court had ordered a ban on the sale of drugs online across India, in response to a petition filed by Delhi-based dermatologist Ahmed.

“As the e-pharmacy rules are in draft stage, we have issued an order to stop online sales of medicines for now. The high court order had said that online sale of medicines should be prohibited. The e pharmacy companies don’t have any licences to sell medicines through online. Till we have rules for the same in place, online sales have to be stopped,” said a senior official in CDSCO under union health ministry.

The court order had said, “…interim injunction has been granted with regard to online sales of medicines without the license and the competent authority has been directed to stall such online sales forthwith.”

The industry has been asking the government for finalising rules so that they can function without hassles. “The sector has huge potential to attract FDI and directly contribution towards the economic development of the country. But, e-Pharmacies are now struggling with the challenges they are faced with due to the delay in the new e-Pharmacy Rules to be released by the government, said Prashant Tandon, Founder and CEO, 1mg.

“e-Pharmacies are abiding by all rules and restrictions. With recent questions being raised on the regulation purview of their operations e-Pharmacies are seeking the release of new e-Pharmacy Rules without further delay,” he said.

According to the proposed e-pharmacy rules which were opened for public comments in September 2018 and received several representations, only government-registered e-portals can sell medicines, and they must retain prescriptions and verify details of patients and doctors.

The industry players also claim that the e-Pharmacy model is well covered under the regulatory purview by the IT Act 2000 under the concept of intermediaries and the pharmacy retail operations are covered under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act.

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