The Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) has issued a directive banning the sale of medicine online and has asked all state governments and union territories to take action against the e-pharmacies, reports the Times of India. A copy of the order here (hat tip: Tarun Krishnakumar).
The report added that the ban is temporary and the DCGI is awaiting recommendations from an expert committee headed by Dr Harshadeep Kamble, commissioner of the Maharashtra FDA.
Earlier in December, the Drugs Consultative Committee, the advisory arm of the DCGI, had 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.
The DCGI had also in June 2015 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.
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.
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.