Online med sales under scanner again

Online med sales under scanner again

Pharma stores on the Net must be made accountable, say traditional pharmacists

In recent years, online medicine stores have eaten into the business of brick-and-mortar phramacies

On Monday, the Madras High Court banned the online sales of medicines till the Central government puts proper guidelines in place.

Brick-and-mortar pharmacies in Tamil Nadu had petitioned the court against the sale of medicines online.

The court told the government to notify the Drugs and Cosmetics Amendment Rules of 2018 before January 31 so that the stipulations could be enforced.

The rules have been in the draft stage for almost two years. Pharmacists running physical stores in Bengaluru, impacted by the online pharma stores, say stringent rules must be brought to bear on the online medicine business.

T V Narayana, president of the Indian Pharmaceutical Association, says a huge percentage of Bengaluru’s population buys medicines online and so regulations are an urgent necessity.

“Ordering of medicines online leads to many hazards. Medicines should be sold by registered and qualified pharmacists. The pharmacist should be able to advise the patient on how and when the drug should be taken,” he says. 

Considering recent data from WHO, India is one of the worst-affected countries when it comes to overdosing on antibiotics, he says.

“Online sales add to this, as basic knowledge and interaction is missing. Medicines are not a commodity like any other,” says Narayana. 

He also suggests counselling for customers buying medicines online.

With an increasing number of young people falling prey to drug abuse, proper monitoring of online sales is a must, he reckons.

“The city is on top of the suicide radar. When someone tries to get a huge quantity of medicines from a medical store, the chemist gets alert, but on the other hand, there is no regulatory body for online stones,” he observes. 

V Harikrishnan, president of the Bangalore District Chemists and Druggists Associations, says existing rules must also be enforced, and confusions cleared. 

“According to the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, hard copies of prescriptions must be taken to a chemist to buy medicines. When licences are being given to online platforms, we must ask them about the validity and details of the jurisdiction,” he says.  

He wonders if a pharmacist with a Karnataka licence can sell to customers in neighbouring states.

“Chemists should also be allowed to issue medicines after receiving a prescription via WhatsApp or email. What’s the point of having different rules?” he wonders.

Reality check : Sites active
On Tuesday, Metrolife visited several online medicine stores to check if they had stopped selling in the wake of the Madras High Court order on Monday. The sites are active, and it was business as usual.