Delhi-based South Chemists and Distributors Association has approached the Delhi High Court seeking delinking the Aarogya Setu Mitr portal  which enlists several epharmacies and telemedicine services  from the government’s contact tracing Aarogya Setu app. This was reported by PTI.

The association’s demands and arguments: The website acts as a marketing tool for only e-pharmacies, and does not mention the local offline pharmacies. This is misleading for users of the government developed and mandated app to believe that drugs for treatment of COVID-19 are available only through e-pharmacies, the petition reportedly says. The petitioner has asked that licensed local chemists also be listed on the website. The petition said there is absolutely no basis for a government-owned platform to be used to promote private commercial ventures.

It sought a direction that the name “Aarogya Setu” not be misused to sponsor the commercial interests of “arbitrarily hand-picked entities”. It also sought immediate closure of the website, according to PTI.

Centre opposes plea: The Central government opposed the plea and argued that the website was developed so that medicines are easily accessible to COVID-19 patients.

To be heard later this month: Justice Jayant Nath has asked the Central government to file its reply within 10 days and listed the matter for May 29.

Aarogya Setu Mitr was launched on May 4. it aggregates select companies providing online delivery of medicines, COVID-19 teleconsultations, and home sample collection for lab tests. It is a public-private partnership facilitated by the government’s Principal Scientific Advisor and NITI Aayog, with “voluntary participation” from organisations, industry coalitions, and startups. The website can be accessed from the Aarogya Setu app, which has been downloaded by 10 crore (or 100 million) people.

E-pharmacy companies/startups 1mg, NetMeds, PharmEasy, and MedLife are listed on the Aarogya Setu Mitr website as providers. 1mg is also listed as a private lab providing home collection for COVID-19 samples, although it is not a laboratory. It is offering bookings and home sample collection for COVID-19 tests in partnership with 5 ICMR-approved private labs.

South Chemists & Distributors Association has petitioned the Delhi HC against online sale of medicines in 2018. Their petition was later combined with a similar petition by Delhi-based Dr Zaheer Ahmed. The court had even placed a interim ban on online sale of medicines in December 2018, but this was never implemented. Proceedings for a contempt petition filed by Dr Ahmed last year are still ongoing in the Delhi HC.