In a significant policy clarification, the government today said that online sale of medicine is permissible under the present law and soon the Health Ministry will come out with a clarification which will help remove the clouds of uncertainty hovering over the working of e-pharmacies.
In a statement the Secretary in the DIPP Ramesh Abhishek revealed that there are about 50 e-pharmacies in the country, and the Drugs and Cosmetics Act does not forbid the online sale of medicines. Shortly the Ministry will issue a clarification which will try to put to rest any issues between chemists and e-pharmacies.
The MoH will try to lay to rest doubts and also clarify which drugs can be sold online. The All India Chemist and Druggist Associations and State Druggist Associations are up in arms against the opening of the Pharma Trade to e-pharmacies. Chemist associations have considerable say in regulating the trade and enforcing rules which force manufacturers to give a fixed percentage as retail margins. The opening of the pharma sector will see the brick-and-mortar losing a lot of dominance they exercised earlier.
The chemists had a one-day shutdown of shops last year to protest against the illegal sale of drugs online by such companies. The government on its part wants to ensure a level and uniform playing field for both e-pharmacies and brick-and-mortar stores. One of the benefits of E-pharmacies is that it will facilitate better access to medicines, even in the remotest location in the country. There are still villages which have no retail medical outlets or if there is one it enjoys a monopoly and with it a chance to exploit the consumers.
With the Central Government on an overdrive and in pursuit to make India Digital, there is a consensus that e-pharmacies can become a game changer in delivering affordable medicines to remote locations.