AICDF opposes e-pharmacy draft, seeks adoption of e-pharmacy at par with Western countries

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The All India Chemists & Distributors Federation (AICDF) is opposing the Union Health Ministry’s draft rules on e-pharmacy, saying the initiative, inspired by western countries, is just facilitating online sale of drugs posing risks to public health, rather than implementing e-pharmacy in letter and spirit manner which is an integral part of healthcare system in the West and has tremendous benefits.

In the West, where healthcare expenses are covered by insurance, doctors send digital prescription to nearby pharmacies which in turn deliver medicines to patients’ doorstep. On the other hand, health ministry’s e-pharmacy draft hinges on facilitating online sale of drugs through e-pharmacy, said Joydeep Sarkar, general secretary of AICDF.

Having said that, introduction of e-pharmacy or retail medicine supply through electronic mode is necessary with the change of lifestyle, livelihood and under the progress of digitization in the society the need and requirement of e-pharmacy cannot be overruled, Sarkar pointed out lacunae and inconsistencies in the draft Bill which are required to be plugged before it becomes a law.

As per the draft, the e-pharmacy shall receive the orders for retail sale through its portal and arrange the drugs, as per the prescription received from the customer as per instruction from registered medical practitioner in writing or in any electronic mode duly signed.

He said electronically generated prescription and/or advice memos should be made mandatory to rule out misuse of prescription.

“With the proposed draft it is very difficult to monitor if the so called ‘prescription’ is authentic or not. It is recommended to make the prescribing process of the doctors and physicians online too. E-pharmacy is a part of the total initiative of taking the health service and health support both under proper surveillance and observation. If we will not start the synchronization process from the root but from the middle, then chances of flaws, faults will remain and the purpose of e-pharmacy will be affected. Electronically generated prescription and/or advice memos are important here,” he added.

A code for each prescription/advice memo is highly solicited under the present circumstances. Such code is the identity mark or identification of a patient which can restrict all relevant malpractices which we are apprehending in the process of e-pharmacy, he suggested.

As per paragraph 67N (1) in the draft, the Central Licencing Authority, may, after scrutiny of the information and documents furnished with the application in Form 18AA and such further enquiry, if satisfied, that the provisions of Part VIB have been complied with, shall grant registration to the applicant in Form 21AA.

AICDF general secretary said word ‘if satisfied’ is confusing and ambiguous. Instead of keeping the variance from one man to another it is better to keep/fix certain definite parameters for necessary compliance to avoid the scope of dissatisfaction. So specification of grounds for dissatisfaction should be included.

Paragraph 67 L-2 says information furnished by e-pharmacy players in Form 18AA while applying for the grant of registration to the Central Licensing Authority shall be supported by the duly notarised affidavit from the applicant.

Considering the sensitivity of the issue of the entire operation of e-pharmacy which is more and more virtual and an operation behind the curtain, the immediate affidavit should be attested by any first class magistrate instead of notary to make things more transparent, he concluded.

Number of pharmacist is a prime and major point for consideration, since any e-pharmacy demands to serve their service for the period of 24×7.

While finalizing the draft, the concerned department should keep in mind the following points – Shops & Establishment Act with the Labour Act, issuance of drug license, retention of the drug license.

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