Online pharmacies are poised to big growth in Asia and India is number one choice in this regard. There is no dearth of entrepreneurship in India and there are plenty of online pharmacy and healthcare entrepreneurs in India. As on date most of these entrepreneurs are stressing upon regulatory compliances rather than business growth and development.
The online sale and purchase of prescribed drugs and medicines in India is still a neglected area as far as regulations are concerned. Till now there are no dedicated E-pharmacy and telemedicine laws in India. Laws for Pharmacies in India are derived from Drug and Cosmetics Act 1940, Drugs and Cosmetic Rules 1945, Pharmacy Act 1948 and Indian Medical Act 1956. Apart from this, there are few high court judgments that have provided further insights and interpretation of the laws.
Indian Laws related to pharmacies were written prior to arrival of computers, let alone internet. Till now there are no clear cut defined laws or guidelines given by the government for E pharmacy Companies. The only laws related to internet in India are defined under Information Technology Act, 2000.
As of now if online pharmacies are following the below guidelines as mandated by the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940. They are in the Green Zone of operating in India:-
- Medicines can be sold only by a registered pharmacy that has retail license. The pharmacy should have a registered pharmacist on payroll.
- It is mandatory for the customer to have a prescription for the medicines he/she is ordering. Over the Counter products can be sold without prescription.
- All the medicines that go out for delivery has to be verified and certified by the registered pharmacist.
However despite organised e-pharmacies following the above rules there is still a major roadblock in the system which is hindering organized pharmacy players from achieving their full potential. On an average, half the orders received by online pharmacies get rejected because of prescription-related errors. The startups, in this space are already facing opposition from offline chemists and under the scrutiny of regulators, are now spending a large chunk of their investments on improving patient awareness of proper prescriptions. This is leading to a direct negative impact on the growth of e-pharmacies by eating away their sales. There is also biasness in the industry when it comes to regulations being followed by online players vs offline stores. State drug regulators are harassing the online players to be extra cautious with the rules whereas the customers purchasing medicines from local chemist stores often don't follow such an exhaustive list of requirements. There is an urgent need for a level playing field in this space and clarity on guidelines to enable legitimate players to develop their business and bring in the much needed innovation and technology to drive transparency in this sector.
The small sector of organized pharmacy retail in India would get a huge boost and a full industry can be transformed by leveraging the internet in a smart way Technology, especially the Internet, adds immense value by improving accessibility of healthcare services to the most remote regions of the country. Online pharmacies have the potential to address a plethora of healthcare needs of consumers and provide benefits in terms of consumer access, convenience, education data records management as well as guaranteeing the authenticity of drugs being sold.
In today’s world, when most products and services are conveniently delivered to the patients’ door-step, it is imperative to encourage access to models that help sick patients avail convenience of medicine delivery without needing to leave their home. In healthcare, perhaps more than any other area, the consumer is unwell and should have easy access to medicines at home, which is now very much possible.
With the advancement of technology and Make in India initiative making headway, this is as right a time as ever for the country to define the regulatory framework to help e-pharmacy have a clear-cut operating model, in line with the concerns of the regulator, while providing benefits to the customers.