Over 850,000 medicine shop owners affiliated to the All India Organization of Chemists & Druggists (AIOCD) will go on strike on October 14, as a demonstration of protest against the rapidly escalating online pharmaceutical industry. The All India Chemists and Druggists Federation (AICDF) declared that their members will not participate in the strike and keep open their shops on the day. (Source)
During tomorrow’s strike, the pharmacists from New Delhi are to assemble at Jantar Mantar. They will be headed by AIOCD General Secretary, Mr. Suresh Gupta. Medical shops in hospitals and 24-hour pharmacies though will not be shut tomorrow.
Why the Strike?
The pharmaceutical industry in India is growing significantly alongside the emergent E-commerce market in India. As per India Pharma 2020 report by McKinsey & Co., this growth is estimated at 13 – 14% annually over 2010-15. While the Drugs and Cosmetics Rules (DCR), 1945 and Drugs and Cosmetics Act (DCA), 2008 significantly cover the retail sale of medicines, they do not cover majority of essential regulations associated with procurement, handling and supply of medicine followed by e-pharmacies. The Maharashtra Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) recently raided 27 online pharmacies located in Mumbai, Thane and Pune and seized drugs worth INR 20 million.
In May 2015, an FIR was filed against e-commerce site Snapdeal for selling prescription drugs online. (Source) The FDA raided Snapdeal’s Mumbai office on April 16 and 20, to which the company assured not to sell any more drugs online. However, a couple of weeks later, a Panvel resident and an FDA official, ordered prescription drugs such as sildenafil citrate (the generic name for anti-impotency pills Viagra) and emergency contraception pills respectively and received the products at their addresses.
Mr. J.S. Shinde, President of AIOCD informed that the one-day nationwide strike on October 14 and their protest was in public interest since the sale of medicines through internet was illegal, increases the risk of adverse drug reactions (side-effects), and would ease entry of low quality, unbranded and spurious medicines.
“Sale of medicines on the internet is a blatant violation of the rules and regulations made for pharmacists. If e-pharmacy is legalized, anybody can get medicine delivered at their house without a prescription, which is illegal,” said Anoop Khanna, president of GBNDCA.
Drug retailers say that the e-pharmacies challenge their businesses and allow misuse of medicines. E-pharmacies have stated that they are not violating drug laws since each buyer uploads the prescription before buying regulated (read prescribed) drugs. “We expect new regulations to give clarity for online players to exist,” said Hemant Bhardwaj, chief executive at Zigy. Many companies have their eyes and ears open to hear the new laws & regulations associated with e-commerce operations of medicines. Apollo’s Joint Managing Director, Ms. Sangita Reddy, in a brief chat told Reuters they will start online drug sales operations once the new regulations are finalized.
Recent changes depicting prospective future regulations framework
With the Union Health and Family Welfare Ministry notifying amendments to the Drugs and Cosmetics Act 1940, antibiotics and anti-Tuberculosis drugs could not be sold over the counter since March 1, 2014. The list includes 24 antibiotics and 11 anti-TB and anti-leprosy drugs. As per these rules, the manufacturers of the drug had to print new warnings on the packing“. It also ensures that doctors cannot prescribe these drugs via SMS, fax or verbally – it had to be a signed, hand-written prescription, mentioning the exact quantity of drug to be dispensed and valid for just one purchase,” said Raj Vaidya, community pharmacist. (Source: Times of India)
E-commerce initiatives today are mostly VC funded. While new regulations (when ready!) may very well bring essential change in e-commerce operations for medicine sales, they should most certainly impact the ‘potential revenues & planning” of existing e-pharmacies or in incubation.
- Isn’t it high time the Government of India and concerned authorities call for the change in desired law? This delay may seed “future risks” for VC funds associated with e-pharmacies in India!
- Digital India sounded great once; how does the “E-commerce Wing of FDA” sound now?
Last Updated on 18th January 2016
The Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) has issued a directive banning the sale of medicine online and has asked all state governments and union territories to take action against the e-pharmacies. The directive was issued through a letter dated December 30, 2015, undersigned by Joint Drugs Controller S Eswara Reddy.
Read more on Times of India Report.