ONLINE drug sales, which is presently prohibited, may soon receive a boost from the central government’s latest deliberations to initiate a monitored e-sale mechanism of drug and medical supplies on web portals. During its latest 48th Drug Consultative Committee meeting, the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO) has formed a sub-committee to check the feasibility of online pharmacy. Currently, only licensed chemist suppliers can physically sell medicines after checking the patient’s prescription and in presence of a registered pharmacist. With no foolproof method in place to scrutinise a prescription online before dispatching the medicines, the e-retail of drugs has not been permitted under the Drug and Cosmetics Act, 1940, and Drug and Cosmetics Rules, 1945.
According to Drug Controller General of India, G N Singh, the online scenario may change now. In a reply to Ghatkopar-based ChemistsOnline.com’s query, the CDSCO said that various organisations had approached them for regulating online drug sales, after which the committee was set up.
Online drug sales came into the limelight after the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) slapped a notice on e-commerce giant, Snapdeal, in May this year. According to FDA commissioner Harshdeep Kamble, the FDA had found more than 45 drugs listed on Snapdeal website that primarily contravened with the provisions of Drugs Magic Remedies (Objectionable Advertisement) Act, 1954. Days after, Shopclues.com was sent a notice for not complying with Drug and Cosmetics Rules, 1945. “We had put 18 other websites under the scanner after irregularities surfaced. After sending them notices, they stopped the sale of drugs on their websites,” said Kamble.
While the permission to buy and sell medicines online would cheer customers, pharmacists claim it would become difficult to monitor sale of Schedule X and Schedule K drugs, which can only be sold in certain quantities after the chemist’s stamp on the prescription. Sachin Inamdar, general secretary of Maharashtra Pharmacy Welfare Association, said that online market can face discrepancies. “In shops, there is a pharmacist to check prescription of each patient and give them dosage instructions. In online sales, this is not possible unless a pharmacist delivers medicine door to door and checks the prescription personally,” he said.