In a major setback to e-pharmacy firms, the Madras High Court on Wednesday stayed the online sale of medicines till November 11.
“It is a very big success for us and a huge favour to the public as well. Recently, there was a case of a customer receiving detergent soap instead of the mobile phone that he had ordered. Imagine one’s plight if it happens in the case of medicines,” said Natarajan Thaneermalai, secretary of the association.
Stating that the discounts made things suspicious, Natarajan said retailers and wholesalers in the traditional business had a margin of 8 and 16 per cent respectively. Pointing out that the e-pharmas were offering discount of 30-40 per cent, he said it made no business sense and thus gave rise to suspicions among the brick and mortar pharmacies that the medicines were of inferior quality. While pharmacists and their leaders claim that their concern was about the people’s plight, some admit that the advent of online pharmacies was seriously affecting their business.
He said the association has been trying to convince associations in other states to consider the same approach and move their respective High Courts. “Once every State is united for this cause, we can move the Supreme Court to permanently stop e-pharma sales,” he added.
Commenting on the court order, Prashant Tandon, founder and CEO of 1MG and president of Digital Health Platforms, said the order was in line with the notification from Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO) on December 30 last year, wherein there was a guidance for State drug controllers to act against all online pharmacies that are operating with models that may be in contravention of the act.
“Specifically, that covered those players who did not insist on prescriptions, did not have a registered pharmacist to dispense the medicines from a licensed premise and often operated from outside Indian jurisdiction. Given that all our members are high-quality players that operate in full compliance with these requirements, we welcome any move towards identifying and taking action against those players who are violating the Act,” he claimed.
According to him, they have always maintained that firms who violate the law, online or offline, should be held accountable with the same yardstick. “The act applies to all players and any player found selling prescription medicines without prescriptions or without registered pharmacists dispensing from licensed premises should be checked by the regulator,” he added.
With many having become dependent on e-pharmacies to purchase medicines, this stay has drawn flak. “It had become much easier for me to purchase medicines as I live alone. I find it very difficult to walk all the way to a pharmacy to purchase my diabetes medicines every week. My daughter had taught me to use the online portal. This stay will surely affect many like me,” said 72-year-old S Ragunanthan, a resident of Guindy.