Online pharmacies are pointing to their role as an essential service as the Capital shuts out other deliveries ahead of and during the G20 event that kicks off on Saturday.

Medicines are the only online deliveries that will be allowed during the G20 Summit, Delhi Police said earlier this week, outlining restrictions that would be in place over the weekend in the New Delhi area.

“As we did during the COVID pandemic, we will ensure our teams continue to operate and deliver essential medicines. We are glad that it has been explicitly noted that epharmacies, which are designated as an essential service, would continue to operate in Delhi even when other services may be impacted,” said a representative with Digital Health Platforms, a forum that represents online healthcare companies including Tata 1mg, Pharmeasy, Netmeds, Practo, Amazon Health, and Flipkart Health.

“This underlines the important role of our industry and frontline workers and pharmacists, who operate 365 days a year, 24 hours a day, irrespective of any disruptions,” a representative who helms an online healthcare platform told businessline.

Online pharmacies have been trying to establish a formal identity for themselves in the healthcare landscape for some time now, and the Centre is presently reviewing this standoff between online companies and offline chemists as it revises the Drugs and Cosmetics Act to cover these digital healthcare ventures.

Call for level playing field

Traditional offline chemists have been calling for a level playing field in terms of the governance of these online health-oriented ventures, the discounts they offer, and so on. Chemists have also pointed to the risks of prescription misuse, advertising of services, and data misuse, among others.

On the contrary, a digital footprint curbs misuse, say representatives with the online healthcare companies. Seeking formalisation of the fledgeling segment, the representative said even traditional chemists were using online messaging apps to deliver medicines these days. And for that reason, a clear regulatory framework was necessary to ensure that both arms of the medicine-delivery space co-existed, he said. Since the early days, the e-pharmacy segment has seen the entry of major players, including the Tatas (1 mg), Reliance (Netmeds), and Amazon, for example, even as ventures like PharmEasy enjoy investor interest.