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Online Pharmacy: A Question Mark on FDA?

Posted by : Varun Doshi

On : 15 May 2015

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Views : 2275

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Now a days, everything can be purchased online. Gadgets, cars, homes and what not! Name it and you get it online. Then why not medicines? Over last few weeks we have been hearing a lot about online pharmacies (e-pharmacies), but for wrong reasons.

As per FDA regulation, no medicines should be dispensed to a customer without a valid doctor's prescription. 

Last week, Snapdeal was caught in wrong foot by the FDA for selling prescription drugs such as anti-potency and emergency contraceptive pills online, that too without even asking for a prescription from the customers. 

It's not only snapdeal, but there are many more e-pharmacies working in India today. The concept is yet to take off like in the western countries but many feel there is a lot of scope in the particular area. Former iGate CEO Mr. Phaneesh Murthy, is also planning to float an online pharmacy venture which will be launched by September on a very big scale. 

Currently there are 2 types of business running in this space. 

1st: The ones who act as aggregators of offline pharmacies and pass on the order to them. (For instance: Meramedicare, 1mg and many more)

2nd: The ones who have their own physical pharmacy retail operations ( For instance: medidart, buydrug and others)

There is still a big question mark on whether they are allowed to sell medicines online. FDA should come out and draft some regulations so that there is some clarity on whether the business is viable, before too many people take a plunge into it.

Maharashtra FDA commissioner says that there are not sufficient checks on whether the medicines supplied by these e-tailers are authentic and not spurious.

Due to absence of any proper guidlines for e-tailing of medicines, all the business are currently relying on Drugs & Cosmetic Act and the IT act. As per a rule in it D&C Act, the pharmacist should stamp the prescription before they dispense the medicines, which is not possible by online pharmacies. But some argue that this rule is not followed even by offline pharmacies. Also there is a lot of confusion over using an electronic copy of prescription, and its validity.

Also, there is an arguement that online pharmacies, will increase the incidence of self medication which is already very high in a country like India where people prefer not going to doctors for small ailments and buying the medicines themselves from the offline pharmacies. But then, that is not going to stop anyway till the practice is stopped at offline pharmacy level, then why target only the online pharmcies.

So far online pharmacies are running smoothly, but FDA needs to wake up and come out with a regulation ASAP, so that we can easily order medicines online without having any fear in our minds.

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