The Delhi High Court, in an order on Wednesday, banned the online sale of medicines by e-pharmacists across the country. It further directed the Centre and the ruling AAP government to bring the order into effect immediately.
Here are seven things to know about it:
- According to a report in The Times of India, this ruling by a bench of Chief Justice Rajendra Menon and Justice V K Rao, came after a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) was filed by Delhi-based dermatologist Zaheer Ahmed.
- The litigation filed by the dermatologist, through advocate Nakul Mohta, complained how lakhs of medicines were being sold on the internet each day, without any rules or regulations, threatening the lives of patients and also posing risks for doctors.
- Ahmed also backed it stating how the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940, and the Pharmacy Act, 1948, does not permit the online sale of medicines. Also, the Drug Controller General of India in 2015 had clearly directed all state drug controllers to protect public health by restraining such sale online. And yet, medicines continued to be traded online. Often, without prescriptions.
- It added how online pharmacies are operating without a drug licence and that this “unregulated sale of medicines online will increase the risk of spurious, misbranded and substandard drugs being sold”. It also spoke about how some of these drugs containing psychotropic substances could easily be ordered online and misused for criminal activities or drug abuse too.
- “Unable to supervise, the government has failed in its responsibility to protect public health which is its constitutional obligation under Article 21. Unlike common items, drugs are highly potent, and its misuse or abuse can have serious consequences on human health, not just for the person consuming it but for humanity at large as some drugs can be addictive, habit-forming and harmful to the body. A large number of children/minor or people from uneducated rural background use the internet and can be victims of wrong medication while ordering medicines online,” the PIL stated.
- In September, the Centre had even set up a panel to analyse the risks associated with the online sale of medicines, particularly “prescription, habit-forming and addictive medicines”. Even the Union health ministry came out with draft rules on the sale of drugs by e-pharmacies.
- The rationale behind it was to regulate the online sale of medicines across the country and ensure that patients could access genuine drugs from authentic online portals. These draft rules stated that no person would distribute, sell, stock, exhibit or offer drugs through e-pharmacy portals, unless registered.
While many orders in the past seem to have been flouted by e-pharmacists, let’s hope that the latest order is followed.
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)