The Madras High Court on Monday banned the online sale of medicines till the Centre notifies rules regulating it. The high court thereby has refused to vacate an interim stay it granted in October.
The court directed the Centre to notify rules regulating the online sale of medicines by January 31, 2019, and online pharmacies have been directed to comply with the notified rules thereafter.
The order was passed on a writ petition filed by the Tamil Nadu Chemists and Druggists Association, which sought a blanket ban on online portals that sell medicines until the Centre implements a set of rules permitting such sales.
The development comes just three days after the Delhi High Court stayed the online sale of medicines.
“We have demanded that the Drug Controller General of India (DCGI) and drug controllers in all states now implement the Madras High Court order,” said All India Organisation of Chemists and Druggists (AIOCD) president Jagannath Shinde, adding that they have also demanded the DCGI and drug controllers in states ban advertisements regarding online sale of medicines in print and electronic media.
However, Pradeep Dadha, founder and CEO of Netmeds, said, “We would be filing an appeal and taking recourse available under law.
Benefits of affordable and accessible medicines through our services have been appreciated by customers across the country.”
“As a fully licensed pharmacy, Netmeds is committed to adhering to all the guidelines and standards as prescribed under the drugs and cosmetic act of 1940,” Dadha said.
The order comes comes at a time when the Centre is trying to put in place final rules to regulate online pharmacies. The Centre had issued draft rules in August which aimed to provide patients access to genuine drugs from authentic online portals.
The draft rules on sale of drugs by online pharmacies state that no person will distribute or sell, stock, exhibit or offer for sale drugs through online pharmacy portals unless registered.
Mahesh Zagde, Maharashtra’s former Food & Drugs Commissioner, said it was not required for applications to approach high courts, as online pharmacies are illegal under the existing statute The Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940, since their inception.
“Online pharmacies are doing their business because of paralysed Food & Drugs Administration machineries in states and central government authorities like DCGI,” he noted.
Moreover, in the absence of government-issued alerts and dos and don’ts for such type of sales to consumers online, pharmacy experts have raised an alarm over possible misuse of medicines online.
Indian Pharmaceutical Association vice-president Manjiri Gharat recalled that in developed countries, there are specific rules governing sale of medicines online. “There are several checks to know the authenticity of the website, especially authenticity of prescriptions. There are well-defined mechanisms for submission of prescriptions online.
However, in India, due to a lack of such mechanisms, the online sale continues unabated. Public safety has been at high risk because there is higher scope for misuse of medicines online as compared to traditional pharmacies,” Gharat concluded.
Market reports state traditional pharma stores selling products in particular Condoms sales however picking up fast in online portals viz flipart, amazon etc.,