Online Sales Of Prescribed Medicines In India

By Geeta Dalal

Online sales and purchase are governed by electronic commerce transactions. We have no dedicated e-commerce laws and regulations in India. However, a basic level legal e-commerce framework has been provided by the Information Technology Act, 2000 (IT Act 2000) that is the cyber law of India.

While we have basic level e-commerce legal framework in India yet e-health related legal framework is missing. For instance, e-health in India is facing legal roadblocks. Till now we do not have any dedicated e-health laws and regulations in India. The legal enablement of e-health in India is urgently required.

When technology is used for medical purposes, it gives rise to medico legal and techno legal issues. In United States, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA), Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH Act), etc are some of the laws that take care of medico legal and techno legal issues of e-health and telemedicine.

As far as India is concerned, we have no dedicated e-health and telemedicine laws in India. Even essential attributes of these laws like privacy protection, data protection, data security, cyber security, confidentiality maintenance, etc are not governed by much needed dedicated laws.

Ordinary commodities can be comfortably sold through e-commerce websites. However, health related commodities, especially prescribed medicines and drugs, are not easy to manage in an online environment. This is the reason why we have almost nil online sales of prescribed drugs and medicines in India as on date.

We need a dedicated law regarding e-health in general and online sale and purchase of prescription drugs in particular. The laws that deal with sales of prescribed medicines and drugs were enacted many decades ago when information and communication technology (ICT) driven innovative e-commerce methods were not within the contemplation of the legislature. Naturally, these laws are silent about their applicability to online sale and purchase of prescription drugs and their online trading.

Till now many e-health players are not aware whether the present laws allows or disallows the buying and selling of medicines through websites. Though over-the-counter products are no problem, online trade of prescription medicines is a sensitive issue. There are far too many issues involved regarding safety and authenticity of online drug stores.

Most western countries have allowed online sale of medicines. Even China has recently allowed opening of online medical stores for its pharmaceutical industry when about 20 companies were given licenses in this regard and they are doing well. In India, most players are afraid of engaging in online sales of prescribed medicines because of the uncertainty in the legal framework. Time has come to enact a dedicated law that allows online sales and purchase of prescribed drugs and medicines in India.

Source: PTLB Blog.

5 thoughts on “Online Sales Of Prescribed Medicines In India

  1. Kunal Koel
    I have been doing research on this topic for the last six months and could not find much legal information about the same. The only legal information provided in this regard is made available by New Delhi based ICT law firm Perry4Law.

    The only legally authentic and dedicated e-commerce platform in this regard is also managed by Perry4Law. See E-commerce laws and regulations in India.

    A very disturbing trend in India is that many online medicine e-commerce portals are openly violating laws of India, especially those operating in New Delhi and NCR. They deserve to be punished as they have caused serious risk to lives of millions of Indians while our health ministry and Indian government is sleeping over the matter.

    1. PTLB Post author
      Thanks Kunal for your valuable comment. Yes you are right. Many e-commerce portals, especially in NCR region, have opened their online shops for sale of prescribed drugs in India. They are simply violating the laws of India including the cyber law of India and health related laws. However, in their desire to earn profits, they have put the lives of many on risk.

      I also agree with you that Indian government is not playing the required role in this regard. When we have various regulations for selling of prescribed medicines in real time and offline world, there is no sense in allowing companies/individuals to sell life saving and life threatening drugs that also in an unregulated and illegal manner.

      I am personally aware of few people who have engaged in e-commerce fields pertaining to health related products and pharmaceuticals. Needless to mention, they are clearly not following the laws of India.

      A governmental crackdown is urgently required on such platforms just like we tackle quacks.

  2. Mary John
    There is a tendency among e-commerce players in India to ignore Indian laws. The Walmart probe , banned drugs regulation in India , e-trading of medicines, digital communication channels , etc have proved that Indian laws must not be taken lightly.

    Legal issues of online shopping must not be ignored by e-commerce players in general and online pharmaceutical portals in general. Presently online pharmacies in India are violating various laws of India and Indian government must take serious legal actions against such portals as they are endangering lives of millions in India.

    Illegal and unregulated online sales of prescribed medicines in India and unregulated online sales of prescribed medicines in India must be stringently tackled by Indian government that has miserably failed in this regard so far.

    1. PTLB Post author
      Thanks Mary for your valuable, elaborative and holistic legal analysis regarding online sales of prescribed drugs and medicines in India. Yes I agree with you about the sad position regarding Indian online pharmacies dealings. This is a very serious issue that deserves to be handled on a priority basis. God forbids, if something wrong happens to a person who has purchased a medicine from an unregulated and illegal online pharmacy, whether located in India or other part of the world, who should be blamed for the same? How the accountability and legal liability would be established? Who should be punished for such wrong especially if the pharmacy is located outside India? Time to think about these issues has come.

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