Price Gouging and Illegal Sales? Why the Government Has Issued Notices to Online Pharmacies.
The Narendra Modi administration is once again scrutinising prominent companies in the e-pharmacy business, including Amazon, Flipkart, Tata 1MG, and others. More than 20 prominent Indian e-pharmacy enterprises have received a show-cause notice from the Drug Controller General of India (DCGI), the leading health regulatory body in the nation.
The warning from DCGI VG Somani threatened these companies with “additional action” and gave them two days to react.
The violation of the terms of the 1940 Drugs and Cosmetics Act and the rules enacted thereunder is the justification given for mailing the showcause notice. According to the notice, it was discovered that these companies were selling schedules H, H1, and X without a licence.
But after a protracted conflict between physical chemists and online pharmacies, the government has previously cracked down on e-pharmacies for comparable reasons.
This time around, the action is motivated by a complaint that the Prime Minister’s Office and other government organisations received from the All India Organisation of Chemists and Druggists (AIOCD) (PMO).
An early notification of a statewide protest against the government authorities’ inaction on the unlawful sale of medications on the online platform with predatory pricing was sent by AIOCD, the apex organisation of around 12 lakh offline chemists throughout India.
Amazon, Tata 1MG, and Flipkart were contacted by News18.com for official remarks, but they did not respond right away. If and when the corporations respond, the report will be updated.
HOW DID AIOCD CAUSE THE RECENT CLAMPDOWN?
The lobby asserted that “large corporate houses” and “so-called e-pharmacies functioning, disregarding requirements of drug regulations” had been acting unethically, posing a “existential threat” to the entire medicine trade community.
A “sudden rise has started (sic) in duplicate and bogus pharmaceuticals,” it further alleged, due to the growth of online pharmacies.
Online apps, according to the claim, make it simple to obtain “narcotic medications, pregnancy termination kits, antibiotics, and sedatives…”
The livelihood of 12 lakh members, their families, and dependents across a population of 4 crores have been facing threats to survival (sic), according to AIOCD President JS Shinde. This is due to corporate entities’ dominance with the illegal sale of medicines on the internet and predatory prices with cash burns.
Shinde provided details of his discussion with key government officials, including Union Health Minister Dr. Mansukh Mandaviya, in a subsequent letter sent to lobbyists.
Shinde, who met with top ministry officials, told his industry’s representatives that the minister patiently listened to their concerns and gave them the assurance that all of the issues raised by AIOCD will be taken compassionately into account in the proposed New Drug Act.
In a letter to the officeholders, Shinde stated, “The Drug Controller General of India (DCGI), in accordance with his circular of 3 February 2023, would promptly take action against illegal online players.”
NPPA chairman Kamlesh Pant, Secretary-Pharma S Arpana, Secretary-Health Rajesh Bhushan, DCGI Somani, and other officers were present during the meeting.
NOT CONCERNED: The e-pharmacy industry
E-pharmacy According to business representatives, this is simply a repeat of an earlier directive and “nothing new.”
A prominent e-pharmacy chain executive who has gotten the showcause notice said, “The court is currently considering arguments and the subject has been sub-judice since 2018.”
Since we have always complied with all Act requirements in full, this does not affect our business. All of our facilities have all necessary and readily available licences in place… A legitimate bill specifying the necessary drug licence is sent with each dispensation made using our website.
These businesses do not see any cause for alarm, even though they will respond to the authorities as needed.
They contend that the e-pharmacy industry has developed into a well-organized one where all participants are fulfilling customer orders in accordance with the D&C Act and Rules. “Players like the world’s Tatas and Amazons control the market. They would start by being legally correct and abiding by the law, according to a source in the business.
Another source in the business stated: “Frankly, I am a little astonished that the DCGI, who is in his final months in office, has opted to send this warning for a matter that has been there well before he assumed office.”
“AIOCD has been acting rather aggressively lately; I’m not sure why. However, the ministry only recently answered in Parliament to a question on online pharmacies, and we are all perplexed as to what would have prompted such a move.
Last week, the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare stated in Parliament that the Government of India had published draught rules for inviting comments from the public/stakeholders for amendment to the Drugs and Cosmetics Rules, 1945 for incorporating provisions relating to regulation of sale and distribution of drugs through e-pharmacy. This was done in order to regulate the online sale of medicines comprehensively.