The state Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has cracked the whip on online medical stores found selling drugs to patients on the basis of prescriptions that patients upload.
The drug arm of FDA has filed a FIR against two such online medical stores for selling medicines online to patients. The online sale of medicines violates the provisions of the Drugs and Cosmetic Act which governs the manufacturing and sale of drugs in India.
Earlier, the FDA had filed an FIR against an e-commerce major for selling drugs online. Following the FIR, most of these e-commerce sites refrained from offering to sell drugs on their online portal. However, FDA officials said that recently online medical stores have mushroomed which makes purchase of medicines just a click away.
An FDA inspector posing as a customer bought medicines from Mera Pharmacy- an online portal.
The inspector bought painkillers which were delivered to his residence from Gujarat. Similarly in the second case, a woman on behalf of FDA, posing as a customer bought medicines from Chemist Global which was delivered to her residence from Delhi.
In both the cases, the medicines were being supplied to patients in Mumbai from outside Maharashtra. FDA officials fear that the online sale of medicines allows the entry of spurious and substandard drugs in the community.
“As the drugs are being supplied from outside Maharashtra, it is difficult for FDA to trace its batch and source. These sites are luring patients by providing discounts but who should be held responsible if the drugs sold in such a fashion cause some adverse effect,” said BR Masal, joint commissioner (drugs), FDA.
The other challenge with online medical stores is the verification of prescriptions. “What if the patient uploads a fake prescription on the website? They can also use a valid prescription on several websites to buy medicines in bulk, which are then abused, such as sleeping tablets,” said Masal.
The absence of a pharmacist in the online platform can lead to wrong delivery of drugs.
“Medicines are sold at a chemist store under the supervision of a pharmacist. In the online world, we can’t have a pharmacist to monitor the sale,” said G Vakharia, assistant commissioner, FDA.
Three other such dedicated medicine portals are under the scanner of FDA and Mumbai police. The Parksite Vikhroli police station is also inquiring into two cases of online medical stores.
“The online websites are saying that they are just facilitators and don’t need a license to sell drugs as the store supplying the drugs has a valid license. Our inquiry is on and we will register the FIR accordingly,” said Rajendra Kulkarni, senior police inspector.