Online sale of drugs: CAIT urges Health Minister to implement Rajnath-led GoM recommendations

New Delhi, Feb 17 : Traders’ body Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) has urged the Union Health Minister to implement the recommendations of the Group of Ministers constituted under the Chairmanship of Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on the issue of selling drugs online about more than two years ago.

The CAIT in a communication on Friday has also urged Minister Mansukh Mandaviya to put the recommendation in public domain. It is believed that the GoM has recommended a ban on the sale of drugs online, said the CAIT.

CAIT National President B.C. Bhartia and Secretary General Praveen Khandelwal demanded Mandaviya to take immediate cognizance of the issue and protect large number of chemists from the onslaught of online pharmacy companies who are conducting their business activities in utter violation of the standing provisions of The Drug & Cosmetics Act and Rules thereof.

The trade leaders have drawn his attention towards show-cause notices sent by the Drug Controller General (India) to over 20 companies in relation to their alleged illegal operation in violation of the order of the Delhi High Court.

CAIT further said that it is important to note that in a sector that has such a direct impact on consumer health and safety, it is unimaginable that an unlicensed operator can be permitted to operate without any responsibility.

“We submit that while use of technology should not be stopped as it has many advantages, sales can only be made by licensed players in compliance with law. Our own members are adopting technology and using digital signatures, e-invoice, processing orders through WhatsApp, their website or mobile application, etc. However, this is only done by entities that have valid licenses issued under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act and Rules and after due verification of prescription by registered pharmacists. They have end-to-end control from sale to dispensing of medicines which allows affixing clear responsibility,” it said.

Both the leaders said that online sale of medicine is being conducted by e-commerce intermediaries, and e-pharmacy marketplaces that do not possess licenses (and in some cases cannot possess licenses as they are foreign companies which would violate the FDI policy) are illegal.

“Companies such as Amazon and Flipkart among many others, are claiming intermediary protection and making sale of medicines without license and without responsibility, which is factually wrong and is being used as a tool to skip from their liability. Therefore, it is important that action according to applicable law must be taken immediately without any further loss of time,” said CAIT.

According to the Drugs and Cosmetics Act and Rules, a license is required for exhibition of medicines, sale, stocking as well as distribution. E-pharmacy marketplace platforms exhibit medicines on their websites as well as in some cases stock them at their warehouse. This is illegal and punishable under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act and Rules.