Online medicine store in India: past, present and future
e-Commerce is growing in leaps and bounds in India. A wide variety of products are being sold online ranging from simple pins to sophisticated machineries. With the increase in literacy and access to computers and internet, the number of people buying online is bound to increase by several-folds.
One of the recent additions to online businesses is e-pharmacies. Several players are now selling prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) medicines online. However, there is a lot of debate happening regarding the legal and safety aspects associated with online sales of medications.
In the past several prescription medicines have been sold by foreign websites under different names. Although not publicized on the internet, random mailers would arrive to mail boxes promising the supply of several regulated medicines. The authenticity of which was never checked by any authority, nor any action was taken to curb this in India. Nevertheless, agencies such as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has been keeping a tab on drugs entering US market through this channel.
Several hospitals and private players have ventured into the e-Commerce mode to sell medicines in India. This has led to a lot hue and cry among traditional pharmacists who even downed their shutters for a day in protest to this development.
The concerns raised by these organisations are related to flouting of laws related to sale of medications, especially the scheduled drugs, which are to be sold against a prescription. Another concern is the discounts offered by these online pharmacies. However, a major concern for the buyer is the authenticity of the product/medicine being sold online. The concern of the regulatory agencies is about the misuse and abuse of restricted medications.
Online medicine providers such as Zigy.com promises quality medicines through their internal verification process, where they only partner with pharmacists having valid licenses and are selling original products only. According to the website/app, a copy of prescription is necessary for ordering prescription medications, which also needs to be produced for validation at the time of drug delivery.
Nevertheless, lack of proper regulations regarding online sale of medicines has led to the formation of numerous online pharmacies promising quality medicines at the cheapest price!
The FDA has noted that several medicines ordered online were either of poor quality or contained a different active ingredient than what was supposed to be present. Practices such as this would be harmful for the patient and the country’s economy in the long run.
Following the recent protest against online sales of medicines, Government of India is considering to take measures to regulate it. The Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) which regulates the sale of medications in India is also initiated the formation of committee to look into these matters in detail and come up with regulations and framework for legal operations of online medicine stores. Once these regulations are in place, the sale of medicines online may reach a new level.
There are several benefits to the buyer from online sales of medicines. The most widely publicized benefit being the ease of purchase and the ability to buy medicine without having to travel for it. Nevertheless, buyers will always need to be careful about spurious products being sold for throwaway prices.