The All India Organization of Chemists and Druggists (AIOCD) has called for a nationwide bandh to protest the regularizing sale of medicines through internet and online pharmacies. The industry body, which represents over 8 lakh members, has called for a strike on November 23.

The AIOCD said that online pharmacies are doing business illegally and are in contravention of the Drugs and Cosmetics Act of 1940 which state that sale of medicine can be done only through a pharmacist. The also alleged that online pharmacies are supplying prescription and schedule drugs without confirming the authenticity of prescription and patient. 

This isn’t the first time offline pharmacies have protested their online counterparts. The AIOCD had called for a similar bandh back in October 2015.

However, a number of online pharmacies companies have come together to form the Indian Internet Pharmacy Association (IIPA) advocating for rules and operations of online pharmacies. Its members include Bookmeds, mChemist, Medidart, Medlife, Medstar, Netmeds, Pharmeasy, (PM Health & Life Care), SaveOnMedicals, Savemymeds and 1mg.

Prashant Tandon, CEO of 1mg and president of the IIPA, said that there were a lot of misconceptions on what online pharmacies in India are doing. He explained that they are not manufacturing medicine and retailing them online and that they are web platforms and the orders are fulfilled by pharmacists. As such, online pharmacies are protected by the IT Act for acting as an intermediary and that the vendors are required to adhere to the Drugs and Cosmetics Act.

No clarity from the DCGI

Earlier in January, Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) issued a temporary directive banning the sale of medicine online and asked all state governments and union territories to take action against the e-pharmacies.

In December 2015, the DCGI had constituted a seven member sub-committee to examine the risks and issues with selling drugs over the Internet. The DCGI had appointed industry body FICCI in June 2015 as the nodal agency to consolidate and frame guidelines for sales of medicines through e-commerce.

However, there is not word from the DCGI about the rules yet.

Read more: 1mg Founder Prashant Tandon on how the online pharmacy business works