The Madras High Court on Wednesday directed the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and the competent authorities under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940, to immediately stop online sale of medicines that could be sold only in pharmacies on the prescription of a registered medical practitioner.
Justice R. Mahadevan passed the interim order on a writ petition filed by the Tamil Nadu Chemists and Druggists Association.
The main plea of the association was to ban websites that facilitate online sale of drugs.
The petition wanted the ban to be in place till the Centre brings into force a legal framework for permitting such sales.
Senior counsel AR.L. Sundaresan said it was a matter of serious concern that online sale of drugs listed in Schedule H, H1 and X of the 1940 Act was rampant in the country though there was a specific legal bar on selling such medicines without the prescription of medical practitioners.
The judge concurred: “This cannot be allowed. Thousands of innocent people may purchase the drugs online just because they were sold at cheaper prices and end up getting harmful products. What will happen if steroids are allowed to be sold without any prescription? This court shall examine the issue in detail.”
The petition 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 and distributed across the country,” it claimed.