Digital Platforms are one of the Strongest Solutions to Combat Fake Drugs Menace, Says Dharmil Sheth
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Irregularities in the online pharmacy sector and lack of proper framework are some reasons why India has been finding it difficult to combat the fake drugs menace in the country says, PharmEasy co-founder and CEO, Dharmil Sheth. Entrepreneur India caught up with Sheth at a conference held recently where leading players from the health industry gathered to voice their concern on the impact of the delay of e-pharmacy rules in India.
The online pharmacy sector is a growing market. According to a research by investment and brokerage group, Credit Lyonnais Securities Asia (CLSA), e-pharmacies are likely to grow seven times to $3.7 billion by CY22. India houses approximately 50 online pharmacy start-ups including the likes of 1mg, PharmEasy, Netmeds etc.
PharmEasy was founded by Dharmil Sheth and Dhaval Shah in 2015. The start-up was founded with the aim of solving the core challenges namely, authenticity, affordability, availability and accessibility of medicines, in the healthcare space. Sheth shared, “We believe that using digital platforms and technology can help overcome inefficiencies in the pharma sector. People would get access to the right medicine at the right time and at the right price.”
Gaps in the Pharma Sector
According to Sheth says that there is a law in place for medicine distribution and sales but no common framework because of which the sector suffers enormously. He says, “If you combine the IT act and the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, we are very much complying.” He also added, “We need a common framework, covering all the players in this sector.” Businesses in this sector continue to yearn for a proper draft to formalize the sale of medicines online.
He says that they have been discussing the implications of having a common framework with all the relevant stakeholders. The pharmacy sector has been facing the slings and arrows of time for a while now. The Delhi and Madras high courts banned the sale of medicines online last year around the same time. Sheth clarifies a key aspect of the controversy. He says, “People think there was a ban but there was no ban on e-pharmacies, the ban that was imposed was on the online pharmacies that were selling medicines without a license.”
Healthcare is synonymous to trust. Trust between the enterprise and the stakeholders (doctors and patients) can change the face of the sector, according to Sheth. One question that continues to concern is if healthtech is is akin to risk?
He says, “Because this is healthtech, it involves a lot of trust.” It also needs a lot of investment from the entrepreneur’s side and the investor’s side. Contrary to the belief that returns in healthtech or healthcare take time, Sheth says that “healthcare is one of the spaces that will have much more returns than any other consumer goods start-up.”
Challenges of a Healthtechpreneur
The road for healthtech entrepreneurs is a tough one to ride on. Sheth says that people don’t have clarity around this sector, henceforth, questions are inevitably raised around the legality of the existence of these start-ups. He adds, “This is one thing that worries and concerns us.”
Establishing credibility is a time-consuming endeavour for every healthtech and especially, e-pharmacy entrepreneur, points out Sheth. He says, “We have to keep explaining to the media, some of our customers, vendors whom we partner with, regulators in different states.”
Combating Fake Drugs Menace
In the long list of stumbling blocks that assail the sector, the fake drugs menace remains a ghost such entrepreneurs are yet to combat with. Sheth does have a solution for the same.
“To fight the menace of fake drugs, digital platform is one of the strongest solutions.”
The reason being that there is no way of digitally tracking and tracing of fake drugs. How a unit of medicine gets transported among manufacturers, suppliers, distributors etc remains untracked.
Digital platforms help in tracing fake medicines to the last mile and this is why their role and presence in this age remains irrevocably significant.