New Delhi: The Narendra Modi government has decided to crack down on e-pharmacies operating without valid licences, ThePrint has learnt.
In a fresh move, the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO), the apex drug regulatory body in India, has issued orders to take action against such illegal e-pharmacies.
The move comes after e-pharmacies came under the scanner for “potential illegal sales of cannabis and hemp-based drugs”.
Drug Controller General of India (DCGI) V.G. Somani, who heads CDSCO, has written to drug controllers in all states and union territories to take “necessary actions” on the “copy of orders” passed by the Delhi High Court with respect to online sales of medicines in India.
A copy of the letter dated 28 November is also marked to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, the parent ministry of CDSCO.
The letter, accessed by ThePrint, mentions “the order” issued in the matter of Dr Zaheer Ahmed Vs Union of India. In the case, the Delhi HC had ordered a country-wide ban on the sale of drugs online, in response to a petition filed by Delhi-based dermatologist Ahmed.
In its order issued on 12 December 2018, the court said, “…interim injunction has been granted with regard to online sales of medicines without the license and the competent authority has been directed to stall such online sales forthwith.”
The government did not take any action on the order then as it was still framing rules for e-pharmacies at that time. The rules have been formed since, and cleared by the Drug Technical Advisory Board, the apex body for framing rules to medicine. However, the move is awaiting clearance from a Group of Ministers (GOM) led by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh.
The draft rules have recommended inclusion of the provision for customers to upload e-prescription for purchasing medicines online.
No word on legalising sales of drugs online
The GoM led by Singh is looking into legalising online drug sales after the Modi government failed to push through the measure by its targeted deadline.
The government wanted to introduce the framework within its first 100 days in office during its second term, but couldn’t due to alleged pressure from brick-and-mortar chemists.
The GoM met on 30 October but no decision has been announced yet on the long-awaited move.