The fight between brick-and-mortar chemists and online pharmacies is set to reach courts now.
The All India Organisation of Chemists and Druggists (AIOCD) will approach ten High Courts in India against the central and state drug regulators for lack of action against the “illegal” operation of online pharmacies, which could compromise patient safety.
On their part, online pharmacies are gearing up for the fight in the hopes that it would clarify misconceptions about process they follow and also “expose” public safety hazards offline pharmacies pose.
The move comes even while a health ministry sub-committee is evaluating online pharmacies and their impact on health. Online pharmacies are illegal in India and the central and state drug regulators’ negligence in this matter risks public health, AIOCD general secretary Suresh Gupta told ET.
The current Drugs & Cosmetics Act (1940) does not allow online portals to sell medicines, he said. “A major problem (with online pharmacies) is that the medicine could maybe change in transit.
It could be spurious and threaten the health of the (patient),” said Gupta. “It is surprising that the government is not taking action even when there is no law at present that allows online sale of medicines.
We are moving High Courts in at least 10 states.” AIOCD’s state-level units are in the process of preparing petitions against the government and will soon approach the High Courts in states like Delhi, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, said Gupta.
Despite assertions that the drug regulator imposed a tentative ban on the online sale of medicines, online pharmacies claim they are allowed to operate in the country as per law. “Under the current Drugs & Cosmetics Act read along with the current IT Act, we are well covered.
AIOCD and other offline pharmacies would find themselves on shakier grounds,” Indian Internet Pharmacy Association (IIPA) president Prashant Tandon told ET.