The country’s top drug regulator has asked state drug controllers to crack down on e-pharmacies selling prescription drugs because they are not allowed to do so under the law.
“We are working to bring about a new e-pharmacy law. However, until that happens, the online sale of prescription drugs will be illegal,” said Dr GN Singh, the drug controller general of India (DCGI).
Dr Singh said there was no provision in the present Drugs and Cosmetics Act for such enterprises. “We are not against e-pharmas per se, but in the current scenario, there are no checks and balances in place. This can promote self-medication and sale of fake drugs,” he added.
The government opposes online pharmacies in their present form as they can be used to acquire medicines without the supervision of a registered pharmacist or a proper prescription. “We have been asked to check the online sale of drugs, especially prescription drugs. We will take action against anybody found selling prescription medicines online,” said a member of the Delhi Drug Control Department.
A consultative committee on e-pharmacies, formed a year ago, had submitted its report to the DCGI last Saturday after conducting 86 deliberations. “The committee has submitted elaborate recommendations that will be forwarded to the ministry of health in a day or two. We do not believe in denying people the benefits of technology, but when it comes to selling medicines, a proper mechanism needs to be followed,” said Singh. If the government accepts the committee’s recommendations, the new law could have provisions for selling medicines online in a phased manner.
“The sale of non-prescription drugs may be allowed to check the impact, and will later include high-end pharmaceutical products such as addictive medication, antibiotics and anti-cancer drugs. We may also create a central portal with a list of all e-pharmacies,” said Singh.
E-pharmacists deny any illegality in their mode of functioning, claiming that they have adequate checks and balances in place. Prashant Tandon, CEO of e-pharmacy 1 Mg and president of the Indian Internet Pharmacy Association (IIPA), said, “This shouldn’t have an impact on IIPA members, which demand prescriptions and comply with the law. It should only hit domestic and international e-pharmacies that do not ask for prescriptions.”