NEW DELHI: The apex body of chemists has declared a day-long nationwide strike on Friday to protest against the Centre’s move to regularise online pharmacies.
The All India Organisation of Chemists and Druggists (AIOCD) has opposed the government's decision, stating e-pharmacy poses threat to their business and could lead to the risk of drug abuse.
"Repeated appeals have been made by the AIOCD through memorandums to the authorities and the departments concerned. The seriousness of the issue is evident through numerous cases of illegal online sale of medicines by the so called e-pharmacies and online portals.
"The AIOCD has already observed two ‘Bharat Bandhs’ earlier. If the appeal does not get a positive response from the government, we will not have any other option than to call for a nationwide indefinite agitation. Chemist shops across the country will remain closed on September 28," said Sandeep Nangia, the organising secretary of the AIOCD and president of the Retail Distributors Chemists Association (RDCA).
While the drug prices have been regulated by the government, online portals offer discounts up to 70 per cent against a 10 per cent discount available at wholesalers. The AIOCD members alleged e-pharmacies would encourage irrational usage of medicines and sale of spurious drugs.
"The government should crack down any online sale of medicines as it raises the risk of drug abuse. At present, online pharmacy business is conducted illegally and the government is not taking any action against it. Hence, we have no alternative than to go on a strike to protect the health of general public,” said general secretary of AIOCD Rajiv Singhal.
“Despite the complaints made by the AIOCD, online pharmacies are supplying goods such as MTP kits and anti-depressant drugs among others without confirming the authenticity of the prescription and patient,” said AIOCD vice-president Surender Duggal.
The Union health ministry has come out with draft rules on the sale of drugs by e-pharmacies with an aim to regulate online sale of medicines across India and provide patients accessibility to genuine drugs from authentic online portals.
The draft rules require online pharmacies to be registered with the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO), the country's apex drug regulator and central licensing authority and obtain a trade licence.
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, the draft notification said.
However, sale of tranquilisers, psychotropic drugs, narcotics and habit forming drugs have been prohibited through these portals.