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Health Ministry Yet to Respond to Online Pharmacies’ Requests for Meetings: Report

As online pharmacies find themselves in a ‘regulatory limbo’, they’ve been trying to reach the Health Ministry to smooth things out

Days after source-based reports suggested that the Health Ministry is considering shutting down online pharmacies over data misuse, Economic Times reports that over twelve such companies are “seeking an audience” with Ministry officials.

The requests for meetings are reportedly in response to show-cause notices issued by India’s Drugs Controller in February to over 20 online pharmacies for allegedly selling drugs online without licenses, as required by the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940. The companies reportedly want to explain their stance on the notices.

Health Ministry officials had met top online pharmacy executives before the notices were issued, said sources speaking to Economic Times. The pharmacies were asked about data privacy and narcotics sales. The online pharmacies clarified that “[it] doesn’t happen,” said a source. Despite this, the notices were sent. Companies have received “no response” from the Ministry so far on their requests for meetings afterwards, a source added.

Why it matters: Even though online pharmacies believe they’re compliant with India’s drugs laws, as seen below, the show-cause notices indicate that some government regulators clearly think otherwise. The problem is, there are no specific laws to regulate online pharmacies. With online pharmacy-specific bills and amendments pending for a while now, these companies find themselves in a regulatory limbo.

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Top online pharmacy executives wrote to the Health Ministry on notices: On behalf of major online pharmacy executives, Tata Img CEO and co-founder Prashant Tandon also wrote to Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya requesting a meeting. Tandon wrote the letter in February in his capacity as Chair of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry’s (FICCI) working group on e-pharmacies.

Tandon argued that “all e-pharmacies are compliant today under the provisions of the Drugs & Cosmetics Act. Having said that, there is a need for regulations to keep pace with the innovation in the sector…all e-pharmacies have assured their help and cooperation in helping frame regulations and abide by any/all regulations brought in by the government,” reports Economic Times, which viewed a copy of the letter.

After this, FICCI reportedly wrote to Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan describing its stance on the show-cause notices issued to the pharmacies and seeking a meeting on the same.

Health Ministry seeking opinions on new drugs law: Last year, the Health Ministry released the “New Drugs, Medical Devices and Cosmetics Bill”. Among other things, the bill seeks to “regulate, restrict or prohibit” the sale or distribution of drugs online through issuing new rules. The Ministry is seeking opinions on the draft from other government departments, reports Economic Times.

This post is released under a CC-BY-SA 4.0 license. Please feel free to republish on your site, with attribution and a link. Adaptation and rewriting, though allowed, should be true to the original.

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I'm interested in stories that explore how countries use the law to govern technology—and what this tells us about how they perceive tech and its impacts on society. To chat, for feedback, or to leave a tip: aarathi@medianama.com

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