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Chemists protest against the sale of online medicines

Monday, July 16, 2018
By Raju Vernekar

Chemists and pharmacists will march to the Food and Drug Administration office in Bandra, to protest the sale of medicines online as well as to demand relief from “some complicated issues of GST” from government, on Monday.

The march will begin at 2 PM from Kala Nagar signal and the chemists will proceed towards FDA office. The chemists from other parts of the state, including Thane, Navi Mumbai and Raigad will organise similar morchas to respective FDA office/collector’s office. However, stores will remain open to avoid inconvenience to the needy patients. There are over 70,000 chemists with nearly 1.5 lakh employees in Maharashtra.

 “We will submit a memorandum to FDA Commissioner, ventilating our grievances against the online sale of medicines, which not only eats into our business but also poses a danger as several regulated drugs are sold without prescription in the online space, Maharashtra State Chemist and Druggist Association (MSCDA) President Hukumraj Mehta said and added that this was dangerous as the government has no control over the sale.

“The provisions of Drugs and Cosmetics Act(DCA), 1940, and Drugs and Cosmetics Rules, 1945, prohibit online sale of medicines that mandatorily require a doctor’s prescription. Such drugs include anti-pregnancy pills, sleeping tablets and abortion pills, among others. However the medicines related to birth control, sleeping pills and other ailments are easily available without a doctor’s prescription. One cannot make out even if a fake prescription is brought. The Bombay High Court had also questioned the online sale of medicines and asked the government to define the measures taken. But no action has been taken in this regard as yet”.

“Besides the chemists are required to pay 12 per cent GST on the medicines returned to drug companies, on expiry to shelf life. This issue has to be sorted out. In this connection we had a discussion with Union Finance Minister Piyush Goyal at Sahyadri Guest House in Mumbai, on Sunday. We are hopeful that we get some relief, Mehta added. 

“Earlier, we had met FDA officials with the same demand and presented a memorandum. However, the demand went unheard. This time, associations have decided they will again go on a protest march and if no action is taken, then a state wide strike will be called after a unanimous decision,” he added.

Maharashtra Registered Pharmacists Association President Kailash Tandale said that “Business is down by 20 per cent in Mumbai since there is no law regulating sale of medicines online. The websites offer great discounts as part of their business model, and as a result, all of us are affected”.

On 30 December 2017, the Drugs Controller General of India (DGCI), vide circular dated December 30, 2017 had not imposed any ban on e pharmacy had sought only “strict adherence to the Drugs and Cosmetics Act and Rules”. Basically DCA does not distinguish between conventional and over-the-Internet sale of drugs.

A representative of one of the online pharmacy said that “ We abide by guidelines and have taken all measures, wherein customers cannot even search for any ‘sensitive’ medicines or schedule X medicines such as sleeping pills and drugs falling under narcotics, MTP kits or erectile dysfunction medicines.”

It may be recalled that in October last year, the All India Organisation of Chemists and Druggists (AIOCD), an umbrella body of over eight lakh druggists and chemists, had proceeded on a nationwide strike to demand action against the “illegal” online sale of medicines.

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