The Drugs Consultative Committee, the advisory arm of the Drug Controller General of India (DCGI), has constituted a seven member Sub-Committee to examine the issue of sale of drugs on the internet, to understand the risks and concerns of pharmaceutical e-sales.
In a written reply to the Rajya Sabha, Health minister JP Nadda said that the Ministry of Health and Family has received representations from associations both for and against the sale of drugs online. “The representations received were discussed in detail in the 48th meeting of the Drugs Consultative Committee (DCC), held on 24th July, 2015,” he added. The DCGI had in June appointed industry body FICCI as the nodal agency to consolidate and frame guidelines for online sales of medicines through e-commerce channels.
Many pharmacy and chemist associations in India are against the sale of drugs through online stores. In June, the Indian Pharmacists Association (IPA) had written to the DCGI saying that online pharmacies are in contravention of the Drugs and Cosmetics Act of 1940. As per Section 42 of Pharmacy Act “Only Pharmacist can dispense medicine on the prescription of a doctor.” And whoever contravenes these provision is punishable with imprisonment.
Most pharmacy associations claim that livelihoods of pharmacists will be affected by allowing companies to sell drugs online and the All India Organization of Chemists and Druggists (AIOCD) stated that e-pharmacy would hamper the interest of 800,000 chemists and 8 million workers and their families. In October, the AIOCD and other pharmacy associations had called for a nation-wide strike to protest against the government’s move to regularise the sale of medicines through the Internet.
US FDA advisory
The IPA letter had also cited an advisory from the US FDA which mentioned that the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP), the professional organization that represents the state boards of pharmacy in the United States, found that only 4% of online websites reviewed appeared to meet state and federal pharmacy laws.
Crackdown in India
It’s worth remembering 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 could 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.