The Delhi High Court on Thursday stayed the online sale of medicines by e-pharmacies since it was not permitted under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940 and the Pharmacy Act, 1948. The direction was passed by a division bench of Chief Justice Rajendra Menon and Justice V Kameswar Rao on a petition filed by Dr Zaheer Ahmed, who sought a ban on “illegal” sale of drugs and medicines online.
In a hearing on October 6, the court had sought responses of the Centre, the Delhi government, Central Drug Standard Control Organisation and Commissioner of Food and Drugs Administration on the petition. The court has listed the matter for further hearing on March 25 next year. Presently, there is no law that governs the e-pharmacy business in India.
In the petition, Ahmed claimed that online illegal sale of medicines would lead to a drug epidemic and drug abuse. Pointing to a direction of the Drug Controller General of India to the State Drug Controllers regarding strict vigil on the online sale of medicines, the petition said lakhs of medicines were being sold through e-pharmacies in violation of the order.
The petition further claimed that sale of drugs through e-pharmacies increases the risk of self-medication, sale of drugs without a prescription, as well as the sale of psychotropic substances.
The petition also brought to the court’s notice the report of the sub-committee appointed by the Drugs Consultative Committee, which concluded that the online sale of medicines poses risks to public health and that under the present regulatory regime, such sale could not be said to be permitted.
Earlier this year, the Madras High Court had granted an injunction restraining the unlicensed sale of medicines and drugs online after a petition was filed by the Tamil Nadu Chemists and Druggists Association (TNCDA).
Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) S Eswara Reddy had said in September that the government was likely to issue the final regulations for companies engaged in the sale of medicines through online platforms soon and put them into effect by January next year.