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Read this before you buy medicines over the Internet

As the ongoing debate on online pharmacies gets heated, we try to make sense of where to draw the line when it comes to buying medicines over the Internet

health and fitness Updated: Oct 20, 2015 17:43 IST
Susan Jose
Chemists

India's drug industry has been tarnished in recent years by a series of quality problems at various companies, including manufacturing and clinical data shortfalls. (Shutterstock)

On Wednesday (October 14), chemists all over India pulled down their shutters for a day to protest the online sale of drugs. Approximately 18,000 stores participated in the nationwide strike that was called by the All India Organisation of Chemists and Druggists (AIOCD).

For the uninitiated, the protest was held against the government’s move to amend the Drugs and Cosmetics Act 1940. The amendments will enable the Drug Controller General of India (DCGI) to put in place a proper system and regulations for the online sale of drugs. However, experts aren’t entirely convinced of the advantages of the system.

Dr Apratim Goel, dermatologist and laser surgeon, Cutis Skin Studio, is “personally” in favour of the digital age, but adds that it is imperative that the regulatory conditions put in place are strict. “So, e-pharmacies are not a bad idea, provided, they are managed well. It is proven to be a successful model in North America and Europe,” she says, adding, “In a country like India, where the regulatory systems and infrastructure are usually poor, there could be lots of cons to this wonderful system if it is not strictly regulated.”

Dr Soma Sarkar, cosmetic dermatologist, About Face, opines, “When drugs are available online, they can be misused. Even something as basic as a cough syrup, when consumed in higher doses, can be dangerous. I’m especially apprehensive about the college-going crowd that always is on the lookout for faster and easier ways to resolve small health issues.”

Pros of online pharmacies:

1. It is simple, convenient and private.

2. The doorstep delivery of medicines bought online saves time.

3. It is useful for differently-abled patients and the elderly, as they, then, do not need to depend on family members to buy their medicines.

4. Online pharmacy drugs can also be available for cheaper rates, due to the various discounts.

Cons of online pharmacies:

1. There are high chances of drugs being mixed due to delivery errors.

2. In the online delivery of drugs, there are no instructions about their consumption.

3. If the government does not demand the competent regulation of these sites, one might end up buying substituted, counterfeit and outdated drugs.

4. It can increase self-medication or drug abuse, resulting in serious health issues.

Dos and don’ts of purchasing drugs online

DOS

1. Consult your doctor before buying drugs online

2. Get your doctor to mail you a prescription

3. Buy medicines from licensed pharmacy sites only

4. Insist on buying drugs from sites that offer the services of a registered pharmacist, so that your drug-related queries can be answered

5. Report any problems you face with an online pharmacy to the Medical Council Of India (MCI).

DON’TS

1. Avoid getting a doctor’s prescription, and self-medicate

2. Order medicines that are not approved by the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA)

3. Give children access to buying medication online

4. Use someone else’s prescription to buy medicines for yourself, as the effect of some medicines can vary as per the person consuming them

5. Try to repeat a prescription just because you feel better with the medication. Consult your doctor first.

(With inputs from Dr Manjusha Agarwal, General Physician,Global Hospitals)