How good it feels when with just a few clicks, you get all the medicines you need, that too at your doorsteps? Well, this service may come to an end soon as the Indian Union Health Ministry has indicated that it may ban e-pharmacies, which include Tata 1mg, Netmeds, Medibuddy, Apollo, Practo, and many more. Must be wondering why!! As per the reports, many e-pharmacies were recently found openly flaunting mandatory norms and regulations, and to take the situation under control, the government has decided to take such action against them.
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The drug regulator Drug Controller General of India (DCGI) has already served show-cause notices to 20-odd e-pharmacies and this move is seen as an effort on the part of the Indian government to regulate the irrational online sales of medicines and secure the customer data.
As per the revised draft of the New Drugs, Medical Devices, and Cosmetics Bill, 2023 (currently going through the inter-ministerial consultation), the Indian government will have the power to regulate, restrict, or stop the online trade or distribution of any drug, by notification. If passed, then this bill will take the place of the current Drugs and Cosmetics Act of 1940.
This step may seem out of the box to some, but the government has had it in consideration for a while. Last year itself, the old draft of this bill which was put among the public for recommendations had a provision requiring e-pharmacies to take permission before running their operation. Though this provision was later removed from the draft bill.
Online Pharmacies and the Concerns
- Sales of Drugs Without Prescriptions
Many E-pharmacies have been found trading prescription drugs without a valid prescription, even though the regulations clearly state that they’re allowed to sell such drugs only on the condition that patients have valid prescriptions from a registered medical practitioner to show.
- Breach of Customer Privacy
Almost all pharmacy applications gather location-wise data of their users concerning their consumption of drugs, which puts the privacy of people at risk. This is one of the key concerns which earlier led a number of ministers to display their support for prohibiting online pharmacies.
- Fake Drugs
The health ministry also raised the issue of fake medicines being sold to the customers by these e-pharmacies as many of them failed to provide adequate measures to verify the authenticity of the drugs they’re selling online. In absence of proper checks and balances during the online trade of drugs, the unethical and unlawful practice of selling fake drugs has been openly going on for a while.
Public Reaction to the Proposed Ban
When it comes to the public reaction to the proposed move of banning E-pharmacy, we can say it’s not entirely on one side as some think of it as important for the safety of consumers, whereas on the other hand, some are criticizing the basis of it being too harsh. Many have argued that the government needs to carefully deal with E-pharmacies because it’s a major industry today and plays a crucial role in making medicines easily available to millions of patients, hence ensuring their critical health care.
Simultaneously, the Indian government has also stated that it is not against the services that e-pharmacies provide but the practice of flouting norms and regulations that endanger people's lives. Besides this, the government has also cleared that it is open to sorting out the issues with the e-pharmacies that are taking care of all the rules and regulations.
No one has the right to play with people’s lives and the government has made it very clear with the proposal for this move. However, at the same time, the government should also work towards balancing both regulation and accessibility. It can create a regulatory framework to allow e-pharmacies to run while complying with the rules. This will not prove beneficial to the customers but also contribute to the growth of the pharmaceutical industry.
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