The release of regulations for e-pharmacies has been delayed yet again, with the Indian government requesting the Delhi High Court on Monday for six more weeks to finalise its policy stance on the sale of online drugs.
Appearing for the government in the ongoing challenge against the legality of e-pharmacies in India, Advocate Kirtiman Singh informed Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma and Justice Sanjeev Narula that consultations and deliberations on 2018’s draft e-pharmacy regulations were still ongoing. The case will be heard next on November 16th.
Filed by Delhi-based pharmacist Zaheer Ahmed in 2018, the petition takes on the “unregulated” sale of drugs online by e-pharmacies, which may also be a violation of the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940. In 2018, the Delhi High Court issued an order banning e-pharmacies from online drug sales. Multiple companies, including the likes of Tata1mg, PharmEasy, and more, have been served show-cause notices by drug controllers.
Watch: MediaNama in conversation with the Legal Head of the South Chemists and Distributors Association
That being said, the regulation of these companies remains in limbo as the draft 2018 rules haven’t been finalised for years now. Past hearings saw the Bench direct the Indian government to hold fresh consultations on the rules and finalise its policy stance within six weeks.
While the government hasn’t been able to stick to this timeline, reports have since emerged that the Drugs Controller General of India launched fresh consultations on the rules last week, which saw participation from the All India Organization of Chemists and Druggists, Pharmacy Council of India, and e-pharmacies like Tata 1mg, PharmEasy, Netmed, and Practo.
Nevertheless, in its latest August 28th order, the Court directed the Central and state governments to continue taking action against e-companies selling drugs without licenses, in violation of its 2018 ruling.
Offline pharmacy industry groups have particularly led the charge against e-pharmacies in India. “The proliferation of illegal e-pharmacies poses significant risks to public health and safety,” noted Yash Aggarwal, Legal Head of the South Chemists and Distributors Association (SCDA), in a press release from May. “These unregulated platforms can facilitate the sale of counterfeit or substandard medications, potentially endangering the lives of consumers.”
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