Last month, India’s top drug regulator issued show-cause notices to at least 20 online pharmacies, including major players such as Tata 1mg, Apollo 24/7, Reliance Netmeds, PharmEasy, Amazon, and Flipkart Health, over concerns about data privacy and violations of the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940. In recent months, the chemists’ lobby has stepped up its campaign against online pharmacies.
The government is currently drafting the New Drugs, Medical Devices, and Cosmetics Bill, 2023, to replace the old Act of 1940. According to media reports, the revised draft of the bill, which has been sent for inter-ministerial consultation, states that the central government has the authority to regulate, restrict, or prohibit the sale or distribution of any drug via online mode through notification.
A group of ministers previously stated their support for the prohibition of online pharmacies, according to media reports.
The notice said that the DCGI had forwarded the order to all state and Union Territories in May and November 2019 and again on February 3, 2023, for necessary action and compliance. “In spite of the same, you are found to be engaged in such activities without a licence,” the notice to the online medicine sellers said.
Earlier, a critical report from a group of parliamentarians who reviewed the sector may also help the ministry take such a step, as the government plans to replace an umbrella law that has governed the manufacture and sale of medicines in India for the past eight decades.
According to a KPMG-FICCI report, India’s e-pharmacy market will be worth $345 million in 2021, with 40-45% annual growth due to the spread of internet and mobile connectivity, as well as large investments from national and global players.