Online pharmacies urge PM to give final push on rules governing sector

Our Bureau Mumbai | Updated on October 03, 2020 Published on October 03, 2020

As the government outlines its National Digital Health Mission, a platform of online pharmacies has urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to help notify rules governing its sector.

The rules have been hanging fire for over two years since the last draft was issued in August 2018. And it’s been over a year since the DTAB (Drugs Technical Advisory Board ) gave its go ahead on the draft in June last year, said Varun Gupta, Convenor of Digital Health Platforms, representing the estimated ₹3,000-plus crore segment. The draft has gone through a long process of consultations with stakeholders and inputs had been incorporated, Gupta told BusinessLine.

In a letter to the PM, the association called for the final notification on the draft rules of 2018, that would be “in addition to, and not in substitution of, the existing legal framework of the IT Act and DC (Drugs and Cosmetics) Act and Rules which the existing e-pharmacies are fully compliant with. Therefore, the registration of e pharmacies under the proposed Draft Rules is over and above the existing relevant Act and Rules.”

The fledgeling segment has in the recent past seen much activity, including the entry of online players like Amazon Pharmacy, the investment from Reliance in Netmeds and the merger of Pharmeasy and Medlife.

“So far, the Indian e-pharmacy sector has received investments of over ₹5,000 crore and there is a great potential of attracting FDI (foreign direct investment). This will directly contribute to the economic development of the country,” the letter said.

According to the association, the sector provided direct and indirect employment to about 1,00,000 people. Quality medicines were made available across 22,000 pincodes and “e-pharmacies are delivering quality and affordable medicines to nearly 50 lakh patients every month as of now.” A recent report revealed that e-pharmacies delivered medicines to about 8.8 million households during the recent Covid-19 lockdown, the letter said, adding that they were confident of serving about 70 million households by the financial year of 2025.

The online pharmacy sector though faces opposition from the offline chemists, and issues governing the sector continue to be locked in legal battles.

The online association, however, pointed out that its transparent pharmaceutical supply chain, backed by tracking systems and backend technology backend helped traceability of the medicine, the manufacturer and so on, “making the market a lot more transparent and ensuring authenticity,” the letter said.

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Published on October 03, 2020
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