Chemist Body AIOCD Issues Warning to Amazon India, Calls Entry In E-Pharmacy Segment 'Illegal'
New Delhi: The move to pilot online space for the doorstep delivery of drugs in Bengaluru by E-Commerce giant Amazon India has sparked a controversy, as over 850,000 chemists across the country under the ambit of All India Organisation of Chemists and Druggists (AIOCD) has issued a warning while claiming that e-pharmacies are illegal and not recognized by law under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act.
The body has moved a letter to Amazon CEO and founder Jeff Bezos and Amit Agarwal, senior vice-president and country manager, objecting to its recent entry in the online pharmacy segment.
This came after Amazon India launched Amazon Pharmacy, marking its entry into the online medicine segment that has significant traction amid the COVID-19 pandemic on August 13.
"As part of our commitment to fulfilling the needs of customers, we are launching Amazon Pharmacy in Bengaluru allowing customers to order prescription-based medication, in addition to over-the-counter medicines, basic health devices, and Ayurveda medication from certified sellers," an Amazon spokesperson had stated.
However, the decision did not go down well with the chemist body and it told Amazon that it is amply clear that 'home delivery' cannot be undertaken by any online pharmacy and entities doing so are already facing contempt of court proceedings under the laws of India.
Stating this space has been marred by controversies, court cases, and legal issues in the last few years, AIOCD said that allowing the online sale of medicines would require extensive modification to the Drugs and Cosmetics Act and acts pertaining to the pharmacy, medicine, code of ethics, drugs and magic remedies.
Further warning against its entry into the online drug sale segment, the chemist body mentioned, "We also have a full dossier ready on this subject, and entering this space can bring on legal implications which can bring disrepute to Amazon's name."
In its four pages letter, that was also addressed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Home Minister Amit Shah and other top ministers and government officials, AIOCD sought the government to take cognizance of the "illegal e-pharmacy" which apart from being against the law is against the interest of the public health of the country.
Through the letter, the body highlighted that the sale and dispensation of medicines in India are covered under the Drugs & Cosmetics Act 1940 and Rules 1945, that regulates the import, manufacture, and distribution of drugs whereas the rules contain a classification of drugs and guidelines for storage, display, sale, and prescription of each schedule.
Reiterating that home delivery of medicines is only allowed by the government for neighborhood pharmacies, it stated that a prescription, in original, is required for every "prescription drug" being sold. The act also specifies that the prescription for certain drugs needs to be endorsed while sale. Further, the dispensation has to take place from a licensed premise for which the license has been issued by the Competent Authority. Therefore, the sale of prescription drugs and medicines through online mediums is illegal.
"The legal regime does not permit home delivery of medicines, though recently owing to the situation of COVID 19 pandemic and en emergency like situation, the Government allowed the home delivery of medicines but it was meant for only neighborhood pharmacies. It may be noted that allowing dispensation of medicines by home delivery will require extensive modification to the Drug and Cosmetics Act also apart from the Rules and the same has been accepted by the Union of India in its affidavit before the High Court of Madras, " the letter quoted.
Referring to a report formed by drug consultative committees, AIOCD said the report was of the view that the sale of medicines over the internet is not possible under the present scenario.
The letter further mentioned that the Indian Medical Association (IMA) has also issued a white paper against the sale of drugs online. It has concluded as follows;
" Indian Medical Association is against online pharmacies in India. This will encourage the substitution of cheaper and spurious drugs by the online stores and the doctor-patient confidentiality will be affected. And, will be a violation of all the laws quoted above. It will deny the patient the supervision of the Doctors in the use of medicines. This will encourage patients to use one prescription repeatedly without the supervision of the doctor. This can cause many adverse drug-related reactions, it will encourage drug abuse and overuse of habit-forming drugs. This medicolegal liability will still fall on the doctor when a patient misuses this facility. The service of online pharmacy will be utilized by affluent and educated people. Hence online pharmacy has no public health benefits or implications; but at the same time it is loaded with scope for misuse, drug abuse, dependence, and adverse reactions."