DGCI Bans Online Sales of Medicines!

Pharma Jan Samadhan1

DGCI or the Drug Controller General of India has placed a ban on all online sale of drugs –  a big blow to many Indian etailers and online pharmacies who were selling medicines online.

As per the ToI report, a DGCI circular has instructed all drug control administrators across all states to “take action against those indulging in online sale of drugs in the interest of public health”

Although this directive has already been given, several Indian online pharmacies are still operational. Popular sites like NetMeds.com, Merapharmacy.com, Medidart.com and others were all allowing to upload the prescriptions and to place orders for medicines (We checked, and they are operational).

Why DGCI has placed this ban?

Buying or selling drugs online has always been a controversial issue in India and abroad. Whether the drugs are being used or misused is difficult to judge. In May last year Maharashtra FDA raided Snapdeal for selling drugs online without prescriptions.

In case of Snapdeal, pharmacists from Raigad district discovered that without any medical supervision and consultancy, they were able to order these banned drugs from Snapdeal which were delivered at their home next day. They took the delivered drugs, and approached FDA to stop Snapdeal from selling them, which FD complied.

Snapdeal is not the only case, State and Central Govt officials have been frequently getting complaints from people that online sites are making banned drugs available to users to buy.

Back and Forth on Online Pharmacies

It is interesting to note that same DGCI, in August of last year, had said that they were considering modifying the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, which will allow eCommerce sites to sell medicines online. A member of DGCI panel had said back then, “The committee is yet to firm up its recommendations but drug controllers of many states have submitted their proposals to the government. Majority members of the sub-committee are in favour of considering the pleas of trade bodies, pharmacy chains and e-tailers to allow online sale of medicines with adequate safeguards taking into account the global practices.”

Now 4 months after, they have taken a U turn and placed a complete ban on online sales of any kind of drugs or medicines.

Major Setback for Online Pharmacies

This undoubtedly is a major setback for online pharmacies in India. While the online market share of medicine sales is still miniscule, it has been growing rapidly over past couple of years. Given the growth of eCommerce in other verticals, Venture Capitalists have placed big bets on various Indian online pharmacies.

Several online pharmacy retailers like PharmEasy, Netmeds, Orbimed, have already attached good investments from investors, due to double digit growth in the Rs 97,000 crore ( US$ 14.8 billion) Indian pharmacy market.

However, this directive is surely a major setback for them.

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