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Today we live in a digital era where everything is available at your doorstep on just a finger click. Whether it is grocery items, food stuffs or medicine, you can order it online getting it delivered in a meanwhile of time. Initiative of Indian Government i.e. Digital India has opened a new ray of hope to E-commerce industry in India making people specially from Tier 2 and 3 cities become more inclined to learn and use of these applications of online shopping.

Unlike general E-Commerce, the concept of E-Pharmacies in India is totally different which has some set of rules and regulatories. Frankly speaking about E-pharmacy model in India, currently there is no well defined law set by the Indian Government for selling prescription based medicines online delivered to the patients.

However, in 2015, IIPA (Indian Internet Pharmacy Association) was formed by 11 initial start up E-pharmacy companies like 1 MG, Netmeds, Bookmeds, mChemist, Medlife, Pharmeasy, Medidart, Medstar, Zigy, Save on medicals and Save my meds. Currently, Mr. Prashant Tandon (1 MG founder) is the president of IIPA. These E-Pharmacy companies assured an ethical set of rules and regulations with strict adherence to existing legal framework of the nation. This move was equally supported by the Indian Government which promotes Digital India seeing E-Pharmacy as a strong part of it.

Currently E-Pharmacies in India adheres to the Drug and Cosmetics Act 1940, Drugs and Cosmetic Rules 1945, Pharmacy Act 1948 and the Indian Medical Act 1956. However, online sale of the prescription based medicines from the E-Pharmacy’s website are defined under the Information Technology Act, 2000.

Developed foreign countries like USA, Canada, Australia and European countries have legal internet based regualtory bodies like NABP (National Association of Boards of Pharmacy) which is defined by a government verified internet pharmacy sites like VIPPS. These E-Pharmacy websites can be distinguished whether fake or real by the hyperlink seal which is displayed on the home page of the E-Pharmacy website. Indian Government should also frame these sorts of regualtory framework through which real and fake E-Pharmacies in India can be distinguished.

Some of the current rules and regualtion of selling prescription are:
• Medicines can be sold by only registered pharmacist with valid retail license.
• H, H1, X, medicines cannot be sold without valid prescription.  
• All medicines delivered must be verified by the registered pharmacist at vendor.
• Record of customers and ordered medicines must be maintained by the pharmacy retailer with seperate record of Schedule X and H sold to the customer.
• E-Pharmacy cannot accept foreign countries residing customers.
• Export of the medicines is illegal as per Indian Government.
• Selling prescription drug to the minor is prohibited.
• Sale of banned drug through online or offline pharmacy is prohibited.
• Sale of drugs higher than MRP is a punishable offence as per Indian law.

Days are not far when Indian Government will adopt USA, UK and European E-Pharmacies model as it would save time and money of the customer. Question is that, when everything is going online why not medicine? Even USFDA supports but medicine through E-Pharmacies but one should be able to distinguish between fake and real E-Pharmacy.

- Sunny Sinha (M.Pharm)



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