Why TATA 1mg, NetMeds and Other e-pharmacies Are Still Under Government's Radar Here is a timeline of key events that showcase the clash between government agencies and online pharmacies

By S Shanthi

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Driven by the Covid-19 pandemic and growing digitization, the Indian e-pharmacy market continues to boom. It is estimated to soar to a market size of INR 8,947 Cr by 2027, according to Research and Markets report. Some of the prominent players in the space include Tata 1Mg, NetMeds, PharmEasy, Medibuddy, Amazon Pharmacy, and Flipkart Health+ are among the major players in the sector in the country. However, time and again these companies have come under the radar of government and judiciary.

Here is a timeline of events so far, to give an idea of the concerns raised so far and the road ahead.

2018: It all began after a petition was filed before the Delhi HC seeking regulation of digital pharmacies in the country.

2018: In December 2018, a Delhi HC bench issued an injunction on the sale of medicines by online platforms without license. It had asked authorities to ensure the prohibition is enacted with full force till further orders.

2020: The Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) urged the government to finalize the draft e-pharmacy rules immediately as the delay may be hampering competition in the sector. It said that the delay has allowed vested groups of distributors and retailers to spread misinformation which can lead to competition and high drug prices in India.

2022 June: Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) met Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya and shared with him the issues related to online pharmacies. CAIT later released a statement saying that the minister assured the delegation of taking the necessary steps to streamline the activities of online pharmacies.

2022 July: The government uploaded the draft bill on the Union health ministry's website seeking suggestions, comments and objections from the public and the stakeholders within 45 days from the date of issue of the notice, before July 8. This bill will replace the obsolete Drugs and Cosmetics Bill, 1945. The Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940 regulates the import, manufacturing and distribution of drugs in India.

2023 Feb: The Drug Controller General of India (DCGI) sent show-cause notices to 20 epharmacies, including Tata 1mg, Amazon, and Flipkart, for selling and distributing drugs in contravention of provisions of the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940."In view of above, you are hereby asked to show cause within 02 days from the date of issue of this notice, why action shall not be taken against you for sale, or stock or exhibit or offer for sale or distribution of drugs in contravention of the provisions of the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940 and Rules made thereunder," said the notice.

2023 March: Many media houses reported that the Centre was looking at banning online pharmacies over concerns about misuse of user data. According to Times Now's sources, a Group of Ministers (GoM) has advocated shutting such platforms over alleged malpractices in the sector and concerns about data privacy, predatory pricing and sale of medicines without any prescriptions.

2023 March: Parliamentary standing committee asked the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) to finalize and implement the draft e-pharmacy rules without any further delay. It also asked the ministry to formulate comprehensive guidelines with regard to the online pharmacy and health platforms.

2023 May: The Delhi High Court has granted six weeks' time to the Centre to inform about the outcome of consultations and deliberations with stakeholders on draft rules to regulate e-pharmacies. A bench of Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma and Justice Subramonium Prasad said that pendency of these matters will not come in the way of the Central government in taking action against persons who are violating the court's December 12, 2018 interim order putting a stay on the sale of drugs without licence by online pharmacies.

S Shanthi

Senior Assistant Editor

Shanthi specializes in writing sector-specific trends, interviews and startup profiles. She has worked as a feature writer for over a decade in several print and digital media companies. 


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