Drugs controller issues show cause notices to online pharmacies | Mumbai news - Hindustan Times
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Drugs controller issues show cause notices to online pharmacies

ByPayal Gwalani
Feb 11, 2023 01:57 AM IST

The Maharashtra FDA on Thursday launched a drive to inspect stocking sites and records of prescriptions at local units of online pharmacies. The move came two days after the CDSCO issued show cause notices to e-pharmacies over purported violations of the provisions of the Drugs and Cosmetics Act

Mumbai: The Maharashtra Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) on Thursday launched a drive to inspect stocking sites and records of prescriptions at local units of online pharmacies.

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The move came two days after the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO) issued show-cause notices to e-pharmacies over purported violations of the provisions of the Drugs and Cosmetics Act.

The All India Organisation of Chemists and Druggists had been flagging several business practices of the online pharmacies, going to the extent of calling them illegal. The organisation had also planned to launch a nationwide month-long agitation from February 15 over these practices. Earlier this week, the chemists’ body also met the Central FDA and other authorities at the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare to discuss their concerns. The show-cause notices came in the backdrop of this meeting.

Dated February 8 and signed by Drugs Controller General of India Dr VG Somani, the notices specifically mentioned the sale of drugs falling under Schedule H, H1 and X under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, which are only allowed to be sold by retailer under a valid prescription of a registered medical practitioner and supplied under the supervision of a registered pharmacist.

Bhushan Patil, joint commissioner of FDA Maharashtra, said that vigilance checks on online pharmacies, including the FDA officials buying drugs to ensure things are not done above board, are done routinely. “Since the meeting, there has been an intensified vigilance drive by the FDA across the country. In Maharashtra, we have conducted the drives jointly with the team from the Central FDA to conduct inspection of stock, storage facilities, sales records and prescriptions,” he said.

Patil also said that the CDSCO, state drugs controllers and government regulators will meet on February 26 and 27 in Hyderabad to possibly formulate regulations to govern online pharmacies better, keeping the concerns raised by the chemists in mind.

Speaking on the concerns raised by the chemists, general secretary of Maharashtra State Chemists and Druggists Association, Anil Navandar, said that the online pharmacies are not following the provisions of the Drugs and Cosmetics Act. “They do not take proper prescriptions while supplying schedule H and X drugs, nor can they stamp the copies of the prescription, as contemplated under the Act. Besides, as per the Act, only a qualified pharmacist can hand over the drugs to the patient or their families which does not happen when selling drugs online,” he said.

One prescription can easily be put on multiple sites which is worrying when it comes to habit-forming drugs, Navandar added. He said that there is an urgent need to ensure that one prescription can only be used once even at an e-pharmacy and claimed that access to habit-forming drugs becomes much easier due to these websites.

Another concern of the chemists was regarding the aggressive discounts offered by the online pharmacies. Navandar pointed out that the Competitions Act has a provision to stop pricing goods very low with the intention of eliminating competition from the market, which is what the e-pharmacies are doing.

Meanwhile, Abhay Pande, president of All Food and Drug Licence Holders’ Foundation, an association of drug manufacturers, felt that the efforts being made by the FDA are mere formality as the online pharmacies have been operating since 2016.

“Several high courts have intervened in the matter time and again. In the last seven years, there has been no action from the authorities. The work done by online pharmacies is being done in no secrecy, their advertisements are quite a public declaration. The authorities still turned a blind eye and allowed the industry to thrive unregulated,” he said.

Representatives of the online pharmacies and one of their associations refused to comment on the development.

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