The Madras High Court today directed the Central government to notify the statutory rules related to online sale of drugs and medicines by January 31, 2019 and banned online sales till then.
The court has also set January 31, 2019 as deadline to issue the notification. Justice Puspha Sathyanarayana passed the order while allowing a plea moved by the Tamil Nadu Chemists & Druggists Association.
According to the association, though online shopping might be convenient to consumers, purchasing medicines from unlicensed online stores could be risky as they might sell fake, expired, contaminated and unapproved drugs or unsafe products that are dangerous to patients and that might put their health at risk.
Justice Pushpa Sathyanarayana, who passed the order on a writ petition, held that e-pharmacies in the country can sell medicines online only after obtaining licences under the rules, which are currently in the “draft stage”. The petitioner claimed that there are more than 3,500 such websites in the country.
The judgment comes days after Delhi High Court prohibited e-pharmacies from selling medicines online and asked competent authorities to enforce the ban on online sales. The court had given online pharmacies four weeks to file a counter affidavit.
The legal framework for pharmacies in India is derived from the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940, the Drugs and Cosmetics Rule, 1945, and the Pharmacy Act, 1948. The petitioner had argued that despite several amendments to the rule over the last 78 years, there has been no provision for permitting online sale of drugs and medicines.
The affidavit said that according to the law, “it is not permitted to ship, mail or provide door delivery of prescribed medicines”.
“Drugs of scheduled and non-scheduled category are available online on different websites and distributed across the country,” it said