Pharmacists, e-pharma companies at loggerheads over online sale of drugs

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 09 Sep 2018 09:44:29


By Rajendra Diwe,

REGISTERED pharmacists in Maharashtra and e-pharmacy firms are at loggerheads over the draft rules on on-line sale of drugs. While the e-pharmacy firms have hailed it as a stepping stone for digital pharma ecosystem, the registered pharmacists’ body has termed it as an attack on their livelihood.

According to Drugs Controller General of India Eswara Reddy, rules have been proposed to ensure accessibility and availability of drugs to the people across India. “After the rules are finalised, people will be able to get genuine drugs through on-line pharmacies. These pharmacies will be purchasing directly from the drug manufacturer so they will also be able to give 20-30 per cent discount, thus benefiting the patients,” Reddy said.

E-pharmacy firms have termed the Union Health Ministry’s draft rules as a stepping stone to a truly digital pharma ecosystem in the country as on-line channels will bring in better visibility, transparency, efficiency and convenience to consumers.

However, the Maharashtra Registered Pharmacists Association (MRPA) has strongly opposed the health ministry draft “which will deprive nearly 8.5 lakh chemists of their livelihood”.
Kailash Tandale, President of MRPA said, “If wholesalers are allowed to supply directly to end users i.e. patients, the retail chemists will be closed down in no time because the difference in percentage of profits is approximately 20 per cent.”

“Wholesale licences should only be issued to e-pharmacy operators and medicines should only be supplied to customers through existing retail outlets,” he demanded.
As per the draft, e-pharmacy player, who has received prescription, shall dispense and make arrangement for supply of drugs from any retail or wholesale licensed premises under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940. “The rules have to include only digital prescription by registered medical practitioner. Scanned copies should not be allowed and also written prescriptions scanned through mobile should not be considered as prescription. Scanned or written prescription may lead to prescription forgery,” Tandale further said.

As per industry observer, India currently has over 8.5 lakh retail drug stores catering to 60 per cent of domestic therapeutic demand. These traditional retail pharmacies contribute to 99 per cent of pharmaceutical sales annually while the on-line pharmacy contributes to only 1 per cent of the total sales.

The MRPA president said, if draft rules get implemented in existing form, it will lead to unemployment as retail medical shops run by pharmacists will cease to operate.
“Nearly 8.5 lakh conventional pharmacies will be deprived of their livelihood and social justice and the cascading effect of this will be the loss of jobs to the tune of approximately 2 crore,” he added.

Prominent on-line pharmacies working in India are PharmEasy,, 1mg, Myra etc. Dharmil Shah, co-founder of PharmEasy; Pradeep Dadha, CEO and founder of; Prashant Tandon, co-founder of 1mg; Myra’s co-founder and CEO, Faizan Aziz hailed the government’s decision as a positive move for the industry. “For the last two-three years, Indian e-pharma start-ups are doing exceptionally well, in terms of growth and funding. The latest regulation development is not a surprise. Our data is anyway being stored in India. So, we are already compliant to the latest amendment,” they said.

The MRPA is of the view that on-line supply directly to the patient can be hazardous as many antibiotics are temperature sensitive. “On-line suppliers will not be able to ensure temperature control on medicines which may cause resistance towards antibiotics,” Tandale said.
The MRPA has demanded restriction on number of prescriptions to be handled by a pharmacist, and geographical barrier should be adhered.


Draft Rules at a glance

No person will distribute or sell, stock, exhibit or offer for sale of drugs through e-pharmacy portal unless registered.

Any person who intends to conduct business of e-pharmacy shall apply for the grant of registration to the Central Licensing Authority in Form 18AA through the on-line portal of the Central Government.

The application of registration of e-pharmacy will have to be accompanied by a sum of Rs 50,000 while asserting that an e-pharmacy registration holder will have to comply with provisions of Information Technology Act, 2000 (21 of 2000).

The details of patient shall be kept confidential and shall not be disclosed to any person other than the Central Government or the State Government concerned, as the case may be.

The supply of any drug shall be made against a cash or credit memo generated through the e-pharmacy portal and such memos shall be maintained by the e-pharmacy registration holder as record.

Sale of tranquilisers, psychotropic drugs, narcotics and habit forming drugs have been prohibited through these portals.

The premises from where the e-pharmacy business is conducted shall be inspected, every two years, by a team of officers authorised by the Central Licensing Authority, with or without the experts in the relevant field or the officers authorised by the concerned State Licensing Authority.

It would binding on the e-pharmacies to deliver the drugs in the specific time that will be told to the patient during the time of purchase while the e-portals are mandatory required to have 24/7 call centres.

The registration issued to any person for e-pharmacy will remain valid for a period a three years from the date of its issuance and a renewal of registration will have to be done in case it wants to continue.

No e-pharmacy shall advertise any drug on radio or television or internet or print or any other media for any purpose.

There are provisions of suspension and cancellation of registration of the e-portal if the latter contravenes any provision of the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940.