Delhi HC bans online sale of medicines across India

The Delhi High Court on December 12, 2018 ordered a ban on the sale of online medicines by e-pharmacists across the country. The court directed both Central and state government to ensure immediate implementation of the order.

The HC bench comprising Chief Justice Rajendra Menon and Justice V K Rao passed the judgement while hearing a PIL filed by Delhi-based dermatologist Zaheer Ahmed who complained that lakhs of medicines were being sold on the internet every day without much regulation, posing a huge risk to patients and doctors alike.

PIL: Key Points

The PIL contested that lakhs of medicines were being sold on the internet every day in an unbridled manner and without any regulation posing a huge risk to people.

In her plea, Ahmed pointed out that online sale of medicines is not permitted under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940 and Pharmacy Act, 1948.

The petitioner highlighted that even though the Drug Controller General of India had in 2015 clearly directed all state drug controllers to protect the interest of public health by restraining such sale online, lakhs of medicines continue to be sold online, often even without prescription.

The PIL stated that the government has failed in its responsibility to protect public health which is its constitutional obligation under Article 21.

It stated that unlike common items, drugs are highly potent and its misuse or abuse can have serious consequences on human health, not just for the person consuming it but for humanity at large as some drugs can be addictive, habit-forming and harmful to the body.

The PIL added that a large number of children or minor or people from the uneducated rural background use the internet and can be victims of wrong medication while ordering medicines online.

It further added that online pharmacies are operating without a drug licence and warned that “unregulated sale of medicines online will increase the risk of spurious, misbranded and substandard drugs being sold”.

It also added that some drugs have psychotropic substances and can be easily ordered on the internet and misused for criminal activities or drug abuse.

Background

The Union Health Ministry had come out with draft rules on sale of drugs by e-pharmacies in September 2018 to regulate online sale of medicines and provide patients accessibility to genuine drugs from authentic online portals.

As per the new rules, registration was made mandatory. The draft rules stated that no person will distribute or sell, stock, exhibit or offer for sale of drugs through the e-pharmacy portal unless it is registered.

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