On Wednesday Dec 12,the Delhi High Court banned the online sale of medicines by e-pharmacists across the country. It further directed the Centre and the Delhi government to bring the order into effect immediately.
According to a report in The Times of India, the bench of Chief Justice Rajendra Menon and Justice V K Rao ruled on the Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by Delhi-based dermatologist Zaheer Ahmed. The litigation filed through advocate Nakul Mohta, complained about lakhs of medicines being sold on the internet each day, without any rules or regulations, threatening the lives of patients and also posing risks for doctors. The PIL pointed towards the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940, and the Pharmacy Act, 1948, which do not permit the online sale of medicines. The PIL also stated 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 noted.
Recently, the Union health ministry brought out draft rules on the sale of drugs by e-pharmacies. This happened after both the industry and the patient activists asked for regulations for the online sale of medicines across the country and ensure that patients could access genuine drugs from authentic online portals. These draft rules state that no person would distribute, sell, stock, exhibit or offer drugs through e-pharmacy portals, unless registered.