Madras HC shows green flag for online sale of medicines until final orders

On Thursday, a division bench of the Madras High Court observed that there is no prohibition on the online sale of medicines until the final verdict comes.

The applications for impleadment were filed in a petition by Zaheer Ahmed seeking a ban on “illegal” sale of drugs and medicines online.

In his petition, Ahmed said that the online illegal sale of medicines would lead to a drug epidemic, drug abuse and mis-utilisation of habit forming and addictive drugs.

During the hearing, the petitioner informed the bench that the Madras High Court on Monday had banned the online sale of medicines till the Union Health Ministry and the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO) notified the proposed Drugs and Cosmetics Amendment Rules, 2018 in the Gazette at the earliest by January 31.

The Madras High Court, however, directed the authorities concerned not to give effect to the order till Thursday in order to enable online pharmacies to challenge the decision. On being informed of the development, the Delhi High Court listed the matter for hearing on Thursday.

Pradeep Dadha, the founder of Netmeds, an e-pharmacy chain, said, “We are happy with the Madras HC order suspending the ban on the online sale of medicines. This ruling validates our commitment of providing affordable and accessible medicines to customers. As a fully-licensed pharmacy, Netmeds is committed to adhering to all the guidelines and standards as prescribed under the Drugs and Cosmetic Act of 1940”.

According to Prashant Tandon, President of the Indian Internet Pharmacy Association, about 30-40 lakh patients order medicines from e-pharmacies in India, and the sector, directly and indirectly, employs 15,000-20,000 people. Around 70 percent of the orders serviced by e-pharmacies are for repeat customers buying medicines for chronic ailments like diabetes and hypertension, he said.

Bejon Misra of the Patient Safety and Access Initiative of India says that he is in favor of the sale of medicines online as studies show that patients find it convenient to order medicines sitting at home, but this benefit cannot come at the cost of safety and health.

You can’t let anything to do with health to go without regulation… all over the world, consultations are going on about how to regulate online pharmacies,” he said.

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