Uber-MedLife tie-up violates Drug & Cosmetics Act: AIOCD seeks ban on delivery of drugs through online

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The All India Organisation of Chemists and Druggists (AIOCD), a representative body of 8.5 lakh chemists across the country with recent collaboration between ride-hailing platform Uber and e-pharmacy player MedLife for doorstep delivery of drugs has stated that e-pharmacies are online drug aggregators and there is still no planning by government for cross checking of aggregators as they are still out of the ambit of Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940.

Uber and MedLife announced partnership on 17 April to deliver drugs at the doorsteps in five cities—Kolkata, Hyderabad, Jaipur, Lucknow and Pune.

AIOCD fears a negative reaction by trade members against such tie ups which may affect supply chain of medicines in present critical situation. The drug trade body called upon the government to intervene and put an end to such activities under cover of COVID-19 pandemic.

AIOCD in a letter to Union heath minister, Union chemicals and fertilizers minister, Union health secretary, department of pharmaceuticals secretary, commerce secretary demanded a blanket ban on illegal operation of online pharmacies as they violate D&C Act and a notification issued by Union ministry of health and family welfare on March 26, 2020.

“This notification left no doubt that the model of e-pharmacy delivering medicines to patients till now was illegal and not allowed under the D&C Act”, said AIOCD president J S Shinde.

The notification was issued under power of central government conferred by Section 26B of the D&C Act, which allows the government to modify rules in case of any epidemic or pandemic. It has also, under proviso of Section 33 of the D&C Act dispensed consultation with any board because of extra ordinary circumstances. The notification laid down certain conditions, only under which such deliveries of medicines may be permitted, which include a person undertaking such delivery should hold license in Form 20 or Form 21 under D&C Act.

Shinde stated “MedLife is an e-pharmacy. E-pharmacies are themselves confused as to what to call themselves, an aggregator or a reseller. The government has still no mechanism for checks and balances of aggregators as they are still out of ambit of rules. Medilife along with Uber will deliver medicines in 5 cities, Kolkata, Hyderabad, Jaipur, Lucknow and Pune. These 5 cities consist of nearly 55 revenue districts. It is clear by the notification issued by ministry of health that no aggregator can work under the set of rules laid by it. It is only for an individual retail license holder under D&C Act.”

He further said it is learned that MedLife will provide prescription and over-the-counter medicines, adding, “As per our understanding, the notification is issued only for Schedule H medicines barring few categories and nowhere it mentioned OTC medicines. OTC medicines do not require prescription but needs to be dispensed only.

“Does MedLife hold a retail license in all the revenue districts of the 5 cities? Have they got individual email addresses registered with the state licensing authorities? If they are receiving order on their mobile application”, it is against the law, said AIOCD president.

“Are they following norms laid down in the notification regarding days in which a prescription can be dispensed? If they are not following any laws, how will the state drug authorities check and prosecute? Will Uber also be held accountable and liable for prosecution under law if any rules are not followed or broken? In the current D&C Act, there is no provision of delivering medicines, which is allowed temporarily with this notification, but it does not mention that can the delivery of medicines be outsourced to a third?” asked Shinde.

Rajiv Singhal, general secretary, AIOCD said “Chemists braving COVID-19 pandemic have ensured uninterrupted supply of drugs to needy patients throughout country. They have delivered drugs at doorsteps as per the March 26 notification.

Till date, there is no law in the country to regulate functioning of e-pharmacies. The Union health ministry on August 28, 2018 came out with an extensive set of draft regulations to amend D&C Rules by incorporating separate part for the regulation of online pharmacies in the country. The rules are pending.

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