e-Pharmacy Ban: Delhi HC prohibits online sale of medicines across country

e-Pharmacy Ban: Delhi HC prohibits online sale of medicines across country
The petitioner pointed out that online sale of medicines is not permitted under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940 and Pharmacy Act, 1948 (Main Image: Screengrab from a prominent e-pharmacy in India)

In a landmark ruling, the Delhi High Court on Wednesday ordered a complete ban on the sale of online medicines by e-pharmacists across the country.

It has also directed the Centre and the Delhi state government to ensure that the order is implemented immediately.

A bench of Chief Justice Rajendra Menon and Justice V K Rao, nothing that online sale was not in accordance with the current law, passed the order while acting on a PIL filed by Delhi-based dermatologist Zaheer Ahmed, reported the Economic Times.

Ahmed complained that lakhs of medicines were being sold on the internet without much regulation, thereby posing a risk to patients and doctors alike.

In the plea, Ahmed pointed out that online sale of medicines is not permitted under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940 and Pharmacy Act, 1948.

He also highlighted that even though the Drug Controller General of India in 2015 clearly directed all state drug controllers to protect the interest of public health by restraining online sale, lakhs of medicines continue to be sold online, oftentimes without a valid prescription.

The government, the PIL says, has therefore failed in its responsibility of protecting public health.

“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 reads.

It also alleges that online pharmacies are operating without a drug licence, warning that “unregulated sale of medicines online will increase the risk of spurious, misbranded and substandard drugs being sold”.

“Some drugs have psychotropic substances and can be easily ordered on the internet and misused for criminal activities or drug abuse,” it adds.

Notably, Ahmed’s plea targets the government for failing to regulate the sale, not e-pharma companies.

Back in September, the Union health ministry had come out with draft rules on sale of drugs by e-pharmacies in a bid to regulate online sale of medicines across India and provide patients accessibility to genuine drugs from authentic portals.

The draft rules on “sale of drugs by e-pharmacy” state that no person will distribute or sell, stock, exhibit or offer for sale of drugs through the e-pharmacy portal unless registered.

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