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Chemists & Druggists Association Urges BJP for Nationwide Ban on E-Pharmacies

Written by : Jayati Dubey

April 3, 2024

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AIOCD president stated that online pharmacies are operating illegally due to the absence of licenses required under the Drugs & Cosmetics Act 1940 & Rules 1945.

As India gears up for its general elections, the All India Organisation of Chemists and Druggists (AIOCD) has appealed to the BJP national president, JP Nadda, seeking a prohibition on online pharmacies across the nation.

Reportedly, the AIOCD is concerned about public health and the proliferation of counterfeit medications. The association emphasized the urgent need to curb the operations of e-pharmacies, arguing that it could potentially lead to monopolization by large corporations.

In a letter addressed to JP Nadda, the AIOCD raised the alarm over the threat posed by e-pharmacies, alleging that they operate unlawfully without the requisite license mandated by the Drugs & Cosmetics Act 1940 & Rules 1945.

Expressing concern, JS Shinde, president of AIOCD, said, "While the current regulations don't permit the sale of medicines through the Internet, the 2018 notification introduced by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, which allowed the online pharmacies to operate, hasn't been approved by the government yet. We demand that such illegal selling of drugs should be stopped."

E-Pharmacies on Bullseye

The government's approach to regulating online pharmacies has been under scrutiny, particularly in light of recent legal proceedings.

Last month, the government sought additional time from the Delhi High Court to formulate a specific policy governing the online sale of medicines, indicating the complexity of modifying existing regulations.

The issue gained prominence when the Delhi High Court, in August, directed the central government to take stringent action against those engaging in the unauthorized online sale of drugs.

Earlier, in February 2023, the Drug Controller General of India (DCGI) reportedly issued show-cause notices to prominent e-pharmacies such as Amazon, Tata 1mg, and Flipkart for flouting regulations by selling drugs without a valid license.

Reason Behind the Call for Ban

Shinde pointed out that e-pharmacies resort to selling medicines below manufacturing costs due to substantial institutional funding, posing a direct threat to the livelihoods of traditional chemists and druggists.

Despite industry experts noting a decline in discounts offered by online pharmacies in recent years, concerns persist over predatory pricing practices that distort market equilibrium.

Datum Intelligence reported a more than 4% decline in online sales of medicines through e-pharmacy platforms in 2023, despite significant investments from corporate giants including Tatas, Reliance, and Flipkart.

Experts weighed in on the issue of predatory pricing, highlighting the government's reluctance to intervene directly.

Anay Shukla, founding partner, Arogya Legal, said, "In the past, we have seen that NPPA has refrained from interfering in the deep discounting issue citing that such commercial decisions are not under the scope of the current rules."

As the debate over the regulation of e-pharmacies intensifies, stakeholders continue to grapple with balancing public health concerns, regulatory compliance, and market dynamics.

The AIOCD's call for a nationwide ban underscores the deep-seated apprehensions within the traditional pharmaceutical sector regarding the encroachment of online platforms.

However, with the sector witnessing a slowdown in growth post-pandemic and legal complexities surrounding regulatory frameworks, finding a sustainable solution remains a formidable challenge for policymakers and industry players alike.


About Chime India

The College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME) is an executive organization dedicated to serving senior digital health leaders. CHIME includes more than 5,000 members in 56 countries and two US territories and partners with over 150 healthcare IT businesses and professional services firms. CHIME enables its members and business partners to collaborate, exchange ideas, develop professionally and advocate the effective use of information management to improve the health and care throughout the communities they serve. CHIME's members are chief information officers (CIOs), chief medical information officers (CMIOs), chief nursing information officers (CNIOs), chief innovation officers (CIOs), chief digital officers (CDOs), and other senior healthcare leaders. The CHIME India Chapter became the first international chapter outside North America in 2016 and is now a community of over 70+ members in India. For more information, please visit www.chimecentral.org

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