Pharmacists on warpath
Pharmacists across the country are up in arms over the Central government’s reported move to regularise e-pharmacies which will sell medicines through internet. Over eight lakh chemist shops in 30 states downed shutters on Wednesday in a pre-emptive move to stop the government from going ahead. As of now, a government appointed committee is examining whether online pharmacies can be allowed to supply drugs directly to patients, and how they will go about it. According to All India Organization of Chemists and Druggists (AIOCD), the powerful organisation of drug stockists and distributors, online drugs sale will go against the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940, the Pharmacy Act 1948 and other rules which make it mandatory for only a chemist to dispense drugs on the prescription of a doctor. The chemist has to verify the completeness, authenticity and legality of the prescription and cannot dispense medicine in excess of what has been prescribed. Regular drug stockists and distributors contend that there are no such checks if e-pharmacies sell low quality, unbranded and duplicate medicines, or if addicts posing as fictitious patients buy dangerous drugs online. They are also worried that online pharmacies will take away jobs of around 80 lakh people working in chemist shops, since customers may prefer to buy medicines easily online and have it delivered at their doorsteps without waiting in queues or rushing to the pharmacy before it closes. In many developed countries, medicines are sold online. In India, medicil products like I-Pills, MTP kits and anti-depressants are already being sold online. Those in the online business argue that e-commerce technology ebles the customer, and comprehensive laws can be drawn up to cut out risks. However in Assam, questions can be raised even about the manner regular pharmacies are operating without properly qualified chemists. Questions have been raised whether HSLC or HS passed ‘chemists’ can understand prescriptions, leave alone selling the medicines so prescribed. The Assam Pharmacists Service Association (APSA) has itself been demanding that licenses of about 3,000 fake pharmacists in the State be cancelled.