Centre should immediately release final e-pharmacy Rules: Dr Jagashetty

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The Union government should not delay the final regulations on the e-pharmacy any further. In the wake of the National Digital Health Scheme announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on August 15, this e-pharmacy model is set to play a pivotal role in home delivery of medicines based on ethical prescriptions, said Dr B R Jagashetty, former National Advisor (Drugs Control), ministry of health and family welfare.

In the current circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is evident that e-pharmacies will be able to meet the medical needs of a large section of people in the country. So, the government should immediately come out with the final Rules on e-pharmacy. The sooner the better for India’s ailing population, he added.

The government released the final guidance on telemedicine in a time bound manner during the onset of COVID-19 in April. In a similar fashion, the government should work towards the e-pharmacy final norms too. The government’s expert committee should have arrived at concluding the guidance based on a combination of rules from the Drugs & Cosmetics Act and the Information Technology Act. The two laws mandate transparency in operations which is the ultimate in the business of e-pharmacy, Dr Jagashetty told Pharmabiz.

When the government agencies like Niti Aayog and DTAB and the industry associations like the FICCI are in favour of the e-pharmacy model for India, there should be no question of postponement. Keeping the final guidance in abeyance is a gross injustice to the customers. In the absence of the formal regulation, the e-pharmacies have increased in the country. Several mergers and acquisitions have also taken place. A case in point is the recent report of Reliance taking over Netmed. In the wake of considerable competition in this space, it is the customer who should get the benefit of easy access to medication supplies at proper prices in a transparent, efficient and seamless manner, he noted.

However, in case of any violations, the onus is on the concerned officers of the State and Center to book them under the law, he said.

The business model of e-pharmacy is also positioned to achieve the universal health coverage. Its combination of technology and healthcare is seen to dynamically transform the pharmaceutical ecosystem, when compared to the traditional brick-and-mortar retail model. From customer convenience to being cost effective, e-pharmacy is helping to bridge various glaring gaps to help demand meet supply.

The sector is expected to grow 100% after notification of e-pharmacy final rules. It may result in creating 25,000 additional jobs for skilled professionals. There is no reason whatsoever for such an inordinate delay of the final e-pharmacy guidelines as it will have only a positive impact for the customer. Hence, the government should think of releasing the same immediately. Policy makers should understand that this is of utmost advantage to the customers not only during this particular pandemic phase but also in general. Of course, further amendments to the rules can always be done any time based on practical challenges encountered, said Dr Jagashetty.

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