The Drugs and Cosmetics Act, a 1940 legislation, is being amended to reflect recent trends and changes, such as e-pharmacies, KB Aggarwal, additional secretary (food and drugs) of the ministry of health and family welfare, said on Monday.
The Drugs and Cosmetics Act 1940 does not differentiate between offline and online pharmacies and the government is now working towards amending the existing law to develop a framework where the consumers are benefitted, he said.
Speaking at the launch of a report on 'E-pharmacy in India - Last Mile Access of Medicines', at a session organised by FICCI, Aggarwal said e-pharmacy would allow easy availability of drugs at all hours. However, the government has to address issues like legitimacy of e-pharmacies, patients' safety and privacy, possibilty of misuse of e-pharmacy and adverse effect on retailers' business, he said.
He said there was a need to create guidelines for e-pharmacy, which would allow proper tracking and monitoring of sales of drugs, authenticity of online pharmacists and prescriptions, details of patients, thereby helping to reduce drug abuse and counterfeiting.
In this regard, Aggarwal suggested that linking a person's Aadhar number with e-pharmacy would ensure correctness of person seeking medicines.
For ensuring privacy and confidentiality of information, he said, deliberations were taking place and soon the suggestions will be put up for further discussions among the stakeholders. The Drugs Controller general of India (DCGI) is was working towards developing an online platform and the system should be stable by the end of December 2016, he added.
The government is in the process of drafting a new Drugs & Cosmetics Act, 2016 to meet the current regulatory requirements related to safety, efficacy and quality of drugs, Dr S Eswara Reddy, joint drugs controller, Central Drugs Standard Control Organization, said.
Pharmaceuticals is a priority sector and it was therefore critical to ensure a strong regulatory framework, he said, adding, there should be a standard format of prescriptions.
In his presentation Jayant Singh, director, Frost & Sullivan, said that e-pharmacy was one of the technology advancements offering convenience and better access to consumers and could create a huge demand in the upcoming days.
With the use of technology and access to inventory of multiple stores at a time, e-pharmacies can aggregate supplies, making otherwise-hard-to-find medicines available to consumers across the country, he said.
Dr Manisha Shridhar, regional adviser, World Health Organization, said that for sale of online drugs, in the EU legitimate online pharmacies will have to carry a logo and India could learn from their processes and create its own logo for e-pharmacy. She said e-pharmacies would also give rise to Direct to Consumer (DTC) models.
Afaq Hussain, Director, BRIEF Market Research, said in his presentation on the consumer survey that 90 per cent of the respondents were willing to buy medicines online as epharmacy brings with it the convenience of ordering from mobile applications. Also, the availability of all required medicines at one store/website, home delivery of medicines, better quality of medicines and better pricing and e-bill for tacking and reimbursement, make e-pharmacies more attractive for the consumer.