Healthcare policy in India: Delhi High Court bans the online sale of medicines in India

Healthcare policy in India

Healthcare policy in India: Delhi High Court bans the online sale of medicines in India

Delhi High Court declares online pharmacies as illegal in India; orders interim ban until further hearing.

In a surprising yet important move, the Delhi High Court has passed an interim order to ban the online sale of medicines across the country, thus making online pharmacies illegal. This came as a sudden and huge blow to companies like NetMeds that has become a very popular e-pharmacy app in India.

The order was passed by a bench of Justice VK Rao and Chief Justice Rajendra Menon, directing the Centre to ensure the implementation of the order with immediate effect. The order was passed after Zaheer Ahmed, a Delhi-based dermatologist, filed a PIL, expressing concern over the sale of medicines online in an unregulated manner. The highlight of the plea was that the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940 and Pharmacy Act, 1948 do not permit the sale of medicines on the internet.

Before passing this order, the government had earlier tried to regulate the online sale of medicines by drafting some rules. These norms required individuals to register officially in order to sell, stock, distribute, or exhibit drugs via online pharmacies.

The plea that resulted in the ban argued that the unregulated online sale of medicines could lead to drug abuse, especially among youngsters due to easy access to the internet nowadays. Despite this risk, drugs are being sold in lakhs every day on the internet. The petition added that some of the medicines contain psychotropic and narcotic substances and could be a threat to consumers.

The argument further stated that e-commerce websites have been known to sell fake products. Drugs, unlike regular consumer products, are potent and can have fatal consequences. This directly puts the lives of people at risk and clashes with Article 21 of the Constitution that provides citizens with the right to a safe and healthy life.

The petitioner added in the plea that the present laws are not enough to regulate the online pharmacies that are operating without a license. This could lead to the sale of substandard and misbranded drugs. The ongoing sale of prescription medicines without valid prescriptions is also a matter of concern.

The current plan of action, according to sources, is to constitute a committee that will make a list of all the websites in India that are currently selling medicines and then impose a ban on them. The Delhi HC also sought suggestions from the Centre, Pharmacy Council of India, and the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation and has scheduled the next hearing for this case on 25th March 2019.

The trend of online pharmacies in India

India has become more digital than ever now and the Internet has reached every corner of the country. Hundreds of different online services have cropped up, and ordering medicines online are the new trend. People, especially youngsters, find it more convenient to order medicines online rather than visiting physical stores, as the websites offer fast delivery and significant discounts.

Some of the websites and apps also offer features such as auto-reorder, that keeps a check on your doses and reorders or notifies the user to reorder the next set of doses when the previous batch is about to get exhausted.

In light of the new ban, it could kill the online pharmacy industry and could be a huge business loss for big players like NetMeds, Practo, MedLife, etc.

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