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Pillup Faces Regulatory Uncertainty, Potential Investors Concerned About E-Pharma, But Clarifies “Plan Is Not to Shut Down”

The case of Pillup (an epharmacy platform that provides consumers with pre-sorted sachets of their medical prescriptions) points towards the need for regulatory clarity in a sector that remains largely under-regulated in India.

Last week, sources informed MediaNama that e-pharmacy platform Pillup will be winding down its operations by November 25th. In conversation with MediaNama, Pillup’s Co-founder Ankur Solanki clarified that the plan isn’t to shut down—and that regulatory clarity is needed for businesses like Pillup to remain viable in India, and to assuage potential investor concerns over the troubled e-pharma sector.

Pillup provides consumers with pre-sorted sachets of their medical prescriptions. The individual sachets delivered to consumers contain all the tablets they need to take for that day—an alternative to the medicine boxes often used to segregate and store daily tablets. The company is headquartered in Delhi, and officially launched in October 2022.

“We are doing our best on what we can do for the customers [safety], but we’re open to suggestions from the regulatory body [on more things we should be doing],” said Solanki, speaking to us on Friday. “Our dialogue needs to be open. Right now, everything is in silos.”

Stay tuned for our in-depth interview with Solanki out tomorrow.

Understanding the context: Solanki’s comments come in the backdrop of a sector that remains under-regulated in India. Multiple e-pharmacies offering different services—including medicine deliveries—have cropped up of late. However, some argue that these online platforms violate critical provisions of India’s drug regulations, like the Drugs and Cosmetics Act of 1940, and the Drugs and Cosmetics Rules, 1945. Legal challenges against platforms allegedly selling medicines without the right licences are ongoing at the Delhi High Court, with the court issuing an interim stay order on their operations. Multiple businesses like Tata 1mg, Pharmeasy, and Apollo have reportedly been served notices by drugs controllers under the order.

The Indian government has also dragged its feet on bringing regulations for the sector for years now. Earlier this year, the Court directed it to finalise its stance on the rules, with the government reportedly holding fresh consultations on the matter. The Indian government sought more time to do so, the case will be heard next on November 16th.

Businesses like Pillup’s have similarly come under the scanner. Its main competitor Pharmallama (which offers a very similar service and was successfully invested in on Sharktank India) was served a notice in March by the offline pharmacy group, the South Chemist and Druggist Association. The notice was sent to the investors too. The overall claim: that the business model violates the 1940 Act, and the 1945 Rules, and that no law permitted this sort of “repackaging of medicines”. The body alleged that supplying medicines without their original packaging would render them ‘misbranded’, ‘adulterated’, ‘spurious’, or ‘adulterated’ under the 1940 Act, and that they were removing information that should be disclosed to patients. Removing the packaging could also lead to contamination, harming their health, they claimed.

In the interview coming up tomorrow, Solanki explains how Pillup’s business works, his response to offline pharmacy industry groups, and the kinds of clarifications the company seeks from the government.

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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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