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RTI Exclusive: What is the status of India’s online pharmacy regulations?

Without regulations, the fast-growing online pharmacy sector has been plagued with uncertainty.

It has been more than three years since the draft policy to regulate online pharmacies was released, but the government is yet to finalise any rules. Responding to MediaNama's Right to Information (RTI) request on the status of the draft amendments proposed to the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940 in August 2018, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare said: "In response to the draft rules, a number of comments/suggestions objections from stakeholders were received from the stakeholders. Finalisation proposal is extensively being examined by the Central Government and it may not be possible to say any timelines at this stage for finalization of the draft rules." The ministry also said that the government is not considering any other regulation apart from the above-mentioned draft rules. Why regulations for online pharmacy are imperative Last year, Delhi-based South Chemists and Distributors Association (SCDA) asked regulators to reject the initial public offering (IPO) of PharmEasy, one of India’s largest online pharmacies, on the grounds that online pharmacies are not legal under Indian law. The Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) also asked for the same stating that the online pharmacy’s business model is “entirely based on gross illegality.” SCDA had also previously written to the Competition Commission of India (CCI) objecting to PharmEasy’s merger with MedLife and Reliance’s acquisition of NetMeds, but CCI approved both the deals anyway. The Delhi High Court and Madras High Court in 2018 had both passed orders prohibiting the online sale of medicines without a license. However, the Madras High Court stayed…

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