At a time when the Drug Controller General of India is formulating a framework for online pharmacies to operate in India, mChemist has launched its operations claiming to be the first compliant online pharmacy in India. The website allows users to order medicines after signing up to the website and uploading a valid prescription. The service also allows users to upload their prescriptions via WhatsApp. Users can also order medicines through their Android application.
Apart from prescription drugs, mChemist also sells OTC medicines, herbal products, orthopaedic aids, vitamin supplements, alternative medicines, devices and other health care products. According to a report by the Times of India, mChemist supplies prescription drugs in Delhi, and non-prescription and over-the-counter products to Mumbai and Kolkata.
The company was founded by Rajiv Gulati, former president of global pharmaceutical business of Ranbaxy, Rajiv Ranjan, previously a corporate advisor with Apollo Hospitals and ex Director CVS-Caremark, Gurvinder Pal Singh Baxi, a pharma supply chain entrepreneur and Navinder Singh Sethi, ex-associate director of Eli Lilly and Company. The TOI report says that the company is currently self-funded.
mChemist says that it has has a team of dedicated pharmacists who read, transcribe and parse the uploaded prescriptions in real time and make medicines available for purchase by the patients. The company says that it is in accordance of the Drugs and Cosmetics Act which require a registered pharmacist to dispense medicine. From their terms and conditions:
mChemist is engaged in the business of rendering a variety of healthcare services, including (a) the sale of conventional & alternative pharmaceuticals and healthcare-related products, excluding any and all drugs listed under Schedule X of the Drugs & Cosmetics Act, 1940 and all its corresponding rules (hereinafter referred to as “Drugs Act”) through its retail chemist store at M-59, B-2 Lower Ground Floor; Lajpat Nagar II, New Delhi 110024 (“Licensed Premises”), websites, mobile phone apps, franchises, business partners, alliances and clinics
Other terms and conditions
– mChemist says that it will shall translate and transcribe it, and then update a user’s account with the names of the products and the quantities prescribed for them with respect to this prescription. Once the product details have been uploaded on a user’s account, they will be informed about it via SMS, email or a phone call to confirm the order and rectify if there are any other errors in the prescription. mChemist requires users to reply within 12 hours of being informed about their order before it ships it out.
– If required or if deemed necessary, mChemist will contact the medical practitioner on behalf of the patient to verify that the prescription has been read, translated/transcribed and ordered correctly.
– The website places the onus on users for not uploading “any false, illegal, lapsed, tampered, doctored, falsified or incorrect prescription(s), under any circumstances, whether under active knowledge or erroneously under any mistaken beliefs or assumptions.” From the terms and conditions:
In case the User is in breach of any of the obligations mentioned herein, mChemist shall assume no liability whatsoever for the Product(s) sold and the User shall indemnify mChemist for any present or future liability under the Drugs Act and/or any other applicable laws. Further, all prescriptions so uploaded may be archived by mChemist in the User’s account.
– mChemist also assumes no liability regarding the deterioration of a patient’s health due to delay in shipping and delivery. The service says that emergency deliveries may be available but not guaranteed and advises users to buy medicine from local pharmacies in these situations.
– Its immediate competition is 1mg which offers price comparison and cheaper substitutes among exact formulations for the same medicine. It asks users to submit prescriptions for prescriptions drugs. It claims to have qualified pharmacists on board who provide relevant info about medicines by scanning products.
– There’s also the Dadha Group-owned Netmeds and claims to have a selection of both prescription drugs and non-prescription products (OTC) drugs, supplying over 25,000 stock keeping units (SKUs) across India from its first warehousing hub in Chennai.
Crackdown on online pharmacies in India
It’s worth noting that in May the Maharashtra’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA)filed an FIR against Snapdeal CEO Kunal Bahl and the company’s directors for selling prescription drugs on the e-commerce. Snapdeal was reportedly selling sildenafil citrate tablets (Viagra), that only urologists, psychiatrists, endocrinologists and dermatologists can prescribe. In addition the marketplace was also selling OTC emergency contraceptives. Currently, the company has removed all listings of products even remotely related to health & medicines. See here, here, here and here.
In the same month the Gujarat FDA also raided Prowisor Pharma, a Surat-based online pharmacy that was reportedly selling drugs worth Rs.7 lakh online.