The Government has been Very Supportive on e-Pharmacies
The online pharmacy sector expects regulations to be streamlined by the end of this year, Prashant Tandon, CEO of 1mg and president of the India Internet Pharmacy Association, said in an interview. Edited excerpts:
How has regulation been a pain for e-pharmacy startups? In the last two years, many epharmacies had to shut because they were harassed by the local players. When a drug inspector comes to a vendor he knows only the Drugs and Cosmetics Act. We need to see it in light of the IT Act, which supersedes all other acts in terms of applicability. What we have been asking is that since the IT Act supersedes all other Acts in terms of applicability, all of that needs to be harmonised and communicated though one notification.
On that, the government has taken a very positive stance on that but hasn’t yet introduced any notification. We have been assured that work is in progress towards that. But the local harassment has reduced.What about your demand to be treated at par with offline pharmacies? There are a lot of laws in the Drugs and Cosmetics Act that we comply with but (in reality) these don’t apply to offline pharmacies, which continue to dispense medicines without prescriptions. The law should be uniformly applicable across the board. It should not be the case that because we are following the law
we lose business. What are your main demands? Harmonise all major applicable laws and Acts—definition of marketplaces as per DIPP, the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, and the IT Act. The Drugs and Cosmetics Act needs to be updated so that it is implementable in the online world. We are also demanding that the government mandate the registry of all e-pharmacies. What the US and Europe have done is that only those e-pharmacies that have registered in the country are allowed to sell within the country. We have asked for a similar thing.Also, things like taking a relook at the classification of medicines. Many medicines are under no schedule.
What headway have you achieved? We are in active conversations with multiple departments of the government, including the health ministry, the IT ministry and DIPP. We have been assured that by the end of this year everything will be streamlined. What we have been asking has been accepted in principle at least.The government has been very proactive and supportive. In the Niti Aayog’s three-year road map, e-pharmacy finds mention as something to be clarified by the end of this year. The draft pharmaceutical policy also validates e-phamacy.
How have the regulatory roadblocks hampered growth plans? Initially, it was proposed that epharmacies should have a physical presence in the states they operate in. We have reservations against that proposal. Interstate restrictions defeat a lot of value for customers. We are in almost 600 cities. As of today, we do not do interstate shipments. But that is a value that e-pharmacies can provide. In every state (we operate in) we make shipments through multiple partners
The Mint, New Delhi, 17th October 2017