Central drugs regulator asks states, UTs to stop online sale of medicines

Currently, online pharmacies are operating in the country without a drug license as there are no rules framed for the sector.
For representational purposes.
For representational purposes.

NEW DELHI: Country's drugs regulator has asked all states and Union Territories to prohibit the sale of drugs by online pharmacies as per the Delhi High Court order, a senior health ministry official said on Wednesday.

The court while hearing a PIL by Zaheer Ahmed in December 2018 had ordered the ban on the sale of illegal or unlicensed online sale of medicines till the government drafts rules to regulate e-pharmacies.

The order by the Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI), issued last week, asked all drug regulators in states and Union Territories to take "necessary action" to enforce the court order.

Currently, online pharmacies are operating in the country without a drug license as there are no rules framed for the sector.

In September, the government, in an affidavit submitted to Delhi High Court, said it is in the process of finalizing the draft rules for regulating e-pharmacies after going through representations of all stakeholders.

Ahmed, in his PIL, had said that the online illegal sale of medicines would lead to a drug epidemic, drug abuse and misuse of habit-forming and addictive drugs.

He also moved a contempt plea in April, contending that the e-pharmacies continue to "blatantly" violate the high court direction and the central government was not doing anything to stop it following which the court issued notices to the Centre and some e-pharmacies.

In response, E-pharmacies in July told the Court that they do not require a license for the online sale of drugs and prescription medicines as they do not sell them, instead they are only delivering the medications akin to food-delivery app Swiggy.

In the PIL, Ahmed also said since there was no mechanism to control the sale of medicines online, this puts the health and lives of people at high risk and affects their right to a safe and healthy life under Article 21 of the Constitution.

Ahmed claimed that the Ministry of Health, Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation and an expert committee appointed by the drug consultative committee have already concluded that the online sale of medicines is in contravention of the provisions of Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940 and the other allied laws.

Still lakhs of drugs are being sold on the internet every day, it said, adding that some of the drugs/medicines contain narcotic and psychotropic substances and some can even cause antibiotic resistant-bacteria which is a threat not only to the patient but to the humanity at large.

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