Nearly 8.5 lakh private medicine shops across the country will remain closed on Tuesday as the All India Organisation of Chemists and Druggists (AIOCD) calls for a nationwide protest against the e-pharmacy regulations that the Central government is deliberating upon in support of online sale of drugs.
Stating they have already held several discussions with the Centre, AIOCD president Jagannath Shinde said, “The association believes that the proposal of e-portal will lead to scarcity of medicines in the country.”
Following a government public notice in April on e-portal, the association submitted a point-wise representation to the Health Ministry. Their biggest worry is a massive cut in profit margins with stiff competition from e-portals. In the last three years, at least a dozen e-pharmacy websites have come up, providing an option to upload a prescription that will be verified by a pharmacist and medicines delivered at the doorstep. Extra discounts over online purchases have also attracted buyers.
According to the retail chemist shop owners, verification of drug quality in online retail is difficult and the sale of psychotropic substances will also increase online.
Meanwhile, the Indian Internet Pharmacy Association (IIPA), an umbrella body for e-pharma portals, said e-pharmacy will enable transparent drug dispensing mechanism and give high accountability as the entire procedure will be tracked. “As an online healthcare company, we can work with the government on data and patient reforms,” said Prashant Tandon, president IIPA.