Goa chemists euphoric over Delhi HC order banning e-pharmacies


Chemists in Goa have reacted with thumbs up to the recent Delhi High Court judgement that imposed a complete ban on e-pharmacies sales, says Serilda Coutinho

Following up the verdict passed by the Delhi High Court and the Madras High Court that is relooking into the order banning online sale of medicines, local chemists are hoping that the plea to impose a permanent ban on the sales of medicines online come is accepted.

The Madras High Court has now asked the health ministry and the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO) to notify the proposed Drugs and Cosmetics Amendment Rules, 2018, by January 31. Both these decisions are important on the future of online sales of medicines.

“The Madras Court has placed a stay order on the sale by e-pharmacies which is a good thing for physical chemist stores. Advertisements promoting online sales in print and electronic media have also stopped” says Prasad Tamba, former president, Chemists and Druggists Association of Goa (CDAG). Tamba adds that, in protest against the reconsideration order given by the Madras High Court, local chemists will presented  to the health minister, chief minister, FDA and home department.

“The day will be marked as a halla bol day by demanding the complete ban on e-pharmacies. But pharmacies will remain open as we do not want to cause in convenience to patients. We want to raise our voices” said Albert De Sa, president, CDAG.

Pointing out that the fight is not against online pharmacies but public health, De Sa says that, sale of medicines without verifying the authenticity of the prescription, fake e-prescription, and purchase of generic drugs are some of the problems arising from e-commerce in medicines.  He also pointed out that, at present there is no amendment or regulation in place to allow online pharmacies to operate.

Sharing a similar opinion, Raj Vaidya, owner, Hindu Pharmacy, said that, the implementation of rules across the country in the pharmaceutical sector is very poor and it raises questions on the authority’s capability to draft rules for online pharmacies in a month’s time.”

There are two types of online pharmacies in the market. One acting as aggregators to connect registered pharmacists with the consumer and the other which have are registered (online) outlets maintaining stocks and holding sales licences under the existing regulations.

Justice Puspa Sathyanarayana in her Madras High Court judgment held that, the pharmacies in the country would be entitled to sell medicines online only after obtaining licenses under the rules that were now in the draft stage and yet to be finalised.  According to reports there are around 3,500 websites that sell medicines online

Local chemists also claim that the online sales offer higher discounts of 70-80 per cent and cash back offers to lure customers as compared to the 10-15 percent margin offered by stores. “Around 30 percent of the business in the state has been affected by the sales of medicines through online portals, says Mckenzie Da Costa, chairman, retailers committee, CDAG.  He also points out that, nowhere in the world, even advanced countries have online sale of medicines been given a free hand and even those countries that permit online sales are reconsidering the decision.

Pharmacies all-India as well as in Goa are protesting against online sales of medicines for over two years now.

According to local chemists, lot of illegal drugs on fake prescriptions are being sold online. The dangers of online sales are that it increases the risk of adverse drug reaction as people could get addicted to habit forming drugs. It is also easy opening to entry of low quality and spurious drugs in the market. “Online purchases of sedatives and aphrodisiacs are increasing in the state,” claim chemists.

There are about 650-700 registered pharmacist in the state and they do business in the range of Rs 20-Rs 25 crore per month.

“Online sale of medicines is wrong because it goes against the basic role of pharmacists as counselors,” said De Sa, recently. He added that there is no check on the medicines as a customer has to only upload the prescription and the same prescription can be used on multiple sites.

In Goa patients still prefer buying medicines from chemist stores over ordering online as they are within the reach of their consulting doctor and the absence of online pharmacy portals based in the state the treat is much lower ,says a chemist from Aldona. However medicine prescriptions accepted through whatsapp and uploaded multiple times over the online portal gives acess to customers to accumulate a large stock of hazardous drugs he claims. “Three-four cases related to the misuse of the online sale of the medicines have been reported in the state” says   Da Costa.