The formation of a strict monitoring system for online sale of medicines is underway by the Centre, that has come up with a Self-regulation Code of Conduct for the E pharmacy sector for the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI).

The e-pharmacy model proposed by the apex business organisation provides digital tracking and traceability of medicines, addressing the problem of counterfeit medicines and unsupervised consumption of antibiotics without prescription. It also improves access and affordability of medicines for patients.

This monitoring system will be formed in the wake of the significant rise in popularity of e-pharmacy in the past year. E-pharmacy has also become an important channel to provide last mile access to medicines. This will most importantly benefit patients suffering from chronic diseases, the elderly and sick who are not in the condition to go to the pharmacy.

The e-pharmacy model has proposed that medicines must be processed only against a valid copy of a prescription from a registered medical practitioner. e-pharmacy websites must also ensure no schedule X or other sensitive habit-forming medicines are processed and that there are adequate checks in place to prevent sale of such drugs. “e-pharmacy players must partner with the govt to recall any medicine and collect adverse events of medicines through consumer reports and comply to submit them to National Centre for Pharmacovigilance,” Dr Didar Singh, Secretary General, FICCI. “Dispensation from duly licensed pharmacies under the India e-pharmacy model must be accepted. The e-pharmacy must make reasonable effort to ensure all pharmacy partners are duly registered under the Drugs & Cosmetics Act,” he said. “We are working with private players to develop a centralised online system that involves manufacturers and supply chain managers to develop a fool-proof system for online sale of medicines,” Drug Controller General of India, Dr G N Singh said.

“Consumers need quality medicines at an affordable price. Drugs and Cosmetics Act is the most poorly implemented — thus making consumers vulnerable to counterfeit medicines and self-medication,” said Bejon Mishra, Founder at Partnership for Safe Medicines (PSM) India.

India’s sudden burst in an epidemic of chronic diseases has led to the development of online medicine portals. “We can’t deny that home delivery of medicines is not risky, because there is no tracking. Most of it is happens over the phone,” said Mishra.

The Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO) has already said that strict action will be taken against those who dont complt with the Drugs and Cosmetic Act.