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Madras HC bans online sale of medicines, directs Centre to notify rules

Only ‪on August 28‬ this year, the Centre had come up with draft rules named Drugs and Cosmetics (Amendment) Rules of 2018 for permitting sale of drugs through e-pharmacies.   | Photo Credit: Reuters

The Madras High Court on Monday 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.

Justice Pushpa Sathyanarayana held that the pharmacies in the country would be entitled to sell medicines online only after obtaining licences under the rules that were now in the draft stage and yet to be finalised.

The judgement was passed on a writ petition filed by the Tamil Nadu Chemists and Druggists Association represented by its secretary K.K. Selvan seeking a ban websites that facilitate online sale of drugs until the Centre brings into force a legal framework for permitting such sales.

Arguing the case for the petitioner, senior counsel AR.L. Sundaresan said that it was a matter of serious concern that online sale of drugs listed in Schedule H, H1 and X of the Drugs and Cosmetics Act of 1940 were rampant in the country though there was a specific legal bar on selling such medicines without the prescription of medical practitioners.

Colonial era Act

In its affidavit, the petitioner association said, the Drugs and Cosmetics Act was enacted during the colonial era and much before the advent of online trade. Though several amendments had been made to the law over the last 78 years, so far no provision had been introduced in it permitting online sale of drugs and medicines.

“As per the Drugs and Cosmetics Rules of 1945, it is not permitted to ship, mail or provide door delivery of the prescribed medicines... Yet, drugs of scheduled and non scheduled category are available online on different websites and distributed across the country. As on date, there are more than 3,500 such websites,” it claimed.

Nevertheless, since the Internet had now changed the way people lived, worked and even shopped and also because of enormous growth of e-commerce, many websites had begun to use the medium for sale of medicines too. However, it was questionable as to whether the drugs sold online were safe and non-hazardous, the association said.

Draft rules

On August 28‬ last, the Centre had come up with draft rules, named the Drugs and Cosmetics (Amendment) Rules of 2018 for permitting sale of drugs through e-pharmacies. Suggestions had been called for from various quarters before finalising the rules and the petitioner association too had submitted its views.

“While so, online sale is being happily carried on by several websites in violation of the existing statutory rules... Despite repeated representations made to respondents 1 to 5 [Centre and drug control authorities], the online sale of drugs have not been restrained. There are even advertisements in leading newspapers with heavy discounts,” the affidavit read.

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Printable version | Nov 28, 2020 10:59:21 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/madras-hc-bans-online-sales-of-medicines-directs-centre-to-notify-rules/article25762192.ece

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