ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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A Bitter Pill to Swallow

An e-platform for sale of medicines cannot work without regulating drug prescription and consumption. 

The government has proposed a set of rules for regulating the sale of medicines, including those by “e-pharmacies,” platforms that sell medicines online. Retail chemists across India have reacted negatively to these and even went on a one-day strike. If medicines are already being sold online, should they be stopped, or is it better to regulate them? If we accept the latter, then will the e-platform proposed by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) help, or will it throw up a new set of problems?

In its public notice on 16 March 2017, the MoHFW called for “Public Consultation Regarding Regulation of Sale of Drugs in the Country.” The notice proposed the amendment of the Drugs and Cosmetics Rules to set up an e-platform that would track the sale of medicines from the manufacturers, to the stockists/wholesalers, to retailers (including brick-and-mortar pharmacies and e-pharmacies), and finally to the consumer. According to the proposal, all manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers will have to be registered on this e-platform. Pharmacies will not be allowed to sell medicines unless they are registered on the e-platform, where they must enter details of all medicines received and sold, and details of each prescription, including the doctors’ and patients’ details. In addition, they will also have to contribute towards the maintenance of this platform financially. The chemists’ associations, which have objected to e-pharmacies being allowed to operate without regulation, are now taking a strong stand against the e-platform as well and have threatened to go on an indefinite strike at some point in the future. Apart from the objection of chemists’ associations regarding mandatory registration on the e-platform, and the human and financial resources it requires, there are also concerns about basic infrastructure and accessibility issues in the rural areas.

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Updated On : 27th Aug, 2017

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