A month after it granted interim stay on the sale of drugs and medicines online, the Madras High Court today issued a blanket ban on the same. This is to continue till a regulation is notified by the Central government. The order was passed by Justice Pushpa Sathyanarayanan. This hearing took place after a writ plea submitted by the Tamil Nadu chemists and druggists association stated that medication sold online have chances of being fake, expired, contaminated or unapproved.
The counsel for the petitioner stated that while there have been multiple amendments made to laws for pharmacies, there has been no provision for online sale of drugs and medicines.
The petitioners also added that according to the law, shipping, mailing or providing door delivery of prescribed medicines is not permitted.
The court eventually took into account that the life of a patient is of foremost importance and that medicines bought online can be a potential threat to the buyers.
The online pharma companies had contested in the court saying that most of them are licensed holders and some were just aggregators.
The petition filed by Zaheer Ahmed had said the online illegal sale of medicines would lead to a drug epidemic, drug abuse and mis-utilisation of habit forming and addictive drugs. It had claimed that the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation and an expert committee appointed by the drug consultative committee have already concluded that the online sale of medicines is in contravention of the provisions of Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940 and the other allied laws. Still lakhs of drugs are being sold on internet every day, it had said, adding that some of the drugs/ medicines contain narcotic and psychotropic and some can cause antibiotic resistant-bacteria which is a threat not only to the patient but to the humanity at large.
"It is a matter of public knowledge that e-commerce websites have been caught on numerous occasions of selling fake products. Unlike consumer items, drugs are extremely potent substances and consuming wrong dose or fake medicine can have fatal consequences on the patient," it had mentioned.
The petition had said that as of now there is no mechanism to control the sale of medicines on the Internet and this puts the health and life of people at a high risk and affects their right to a safe and healthy life under Article 21 of the Constitution. A large number of children use the Internet and they could be victims of wrong medications, it had said.
"Online pharmacies are operating without a drug licence and cannot be regulated in the present regime. Unregulated and unlicenced sale of medicines will increase risk of spurious, misbranded and sub-standard drugs being sold," the plea had said.
It had claimed that the online pharmacies are selling prescription medicines in large numbers without a valid prescription which was a dangerous trend. The plea has sought direction to the authorities to take action against the entities distributing, selling or exhibiting drugs on the internet.