The Delhi High Court has issued notice in a petition appealing for closure of online pharmacies which sell drugs and prescription medicines through websites and apps, reports Bar & Bench.

The court issued notice to the Union Government, Delhi Government and the Central Drug Standard Control Organization and Commissioner of Food & Drugs Administration.

The petition is largely based on the following grounds

  • No regulation: According to the petition, which was filed by South Chemists & Distributors Association, online pharmacies sell drugs in the absence of regulations and without any mandate of law. Advocate for petitioner Amit Gupta sought direction from authorities reasoning that online pharmacies violated the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, Pharmacy Act and other rules governing brick–and–mortar drugstores.
  • No level-playing field: The petition argues that the operations of online pharmacies are in violation of Articles 14, 19 and 21 of the Constitution as they have upended a level playing field between the online and the offline pharmacies. The petition appeals that the same rules and regulations apply to both kinds of druggists.
  • Risks of online pharmacies: The petition points of risks and harms that result from online sale of drugs: drug abuse from malafide prescriptions, unhealthy competition; abuse of critical health data generated online; and mishandling during transport, lack of verification about the ultimate user of the medicines, and so on.

Regulation of online pharmacies

Earlier in August, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare notified draft rules for regulation of online pharmacies, to be introduced as amendments to the Drugs and Cosmetics Act. The draft rules regulated online pharmacies and effectively legalised their operations.

  • The rules require online pharmacies to register with a central licensing authority to carry out operations and prohibits the sale of narcotics, tranquilizers and Schedule X drugs.
  • Among other things, the rules also mandate localisation of data within the country, along the lines of the Srikrishna Committee Data Protection Bill, 2018.

The All India Organisation of Chemists and Druggists had organized a nationwide strike against the government’s rules on online pharmacies, as part of the Bharat Bandh against the Flipkart–Walmart merger on September 28.