Electronic trading or online shopping of commodities is a fast, efficacious and cost effective method of business and commerce. However, e-trading is not a free ride but is subject to well defined rules and regulations world wide. This is more so regarding pharmaceutical products that require an additional precaution while dealing in an online environment.
We have no dedicated e-commerce laws and regulations in India. However, the basic outline of the same has been laid down in the information technology act 2000 (IT Act 2000). The IT Act 2000 is also the sole cyber law of India that primarily deals with contraventions and offences pertaining to e-commerce and e-trading in 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. In the present environment, the legal enablement of e-health in India is urgently required.
This is so because 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 e-trading of prescribed drugs and medicines in India as on date.
E-trading of medical drugs in India must be undertaken only after complying with the laws of India. There are many cyber laws due diligence requirements in India that e-traders of medical drugs in India must comply. Similarly, foreign websites targeting India for this purpose must also comply with Indian law in order to do legitimate business in India.
Since the issue is of great public interest, Indian government must formulate a dedicated e-trading law for medical drugs in India so that online illegal sale of medical drugs to Indian residents can be curtailed. Presently, many foreign websites are openly offering sale of medicine drugs to Indian residents through e-mails and other digital channels. Such conduct of these foreign companies and websites must be regulated in India so that harm to public at large can be avoided.