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E-pharmacists have been trying to woo Indian consumers to order medicines online while general pharmacists have been protesting the recognition of this move since a few months. The Drugs and Cosmetics Act does not allow sale of schedule H medicines without the prescription of a practicing doctor. Only licensed retailers are permitted to sell over-the-counter medicinal products.

There are no precise guidelines to regulate the selling of online medicines which has made it difficult to determine if some e-tailers like netmeds.com should be allowed to sell medicines online. While the drug quality regulatory body is trying to frame laws to monitor selling of pharmaceutical products online, Drug Controller General India (DCGI) has asked the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to keep an eye on the selling of medicines online to ensure that no negligence happens in the absenteeism of laws.


While the regulations are yet to be framed or decided upon, pharmacists are hoping that online selling of medicines should be banned. They are not wrong in worrying excessive competition in pricing of products just as e-commerce has done to all other retailers.

No, they make the life so easy!

1. Healthcare at your doorstep: The facility of receiving medicines at your doorstep, within minutes/ days of your ordering, without having to look for them at different medical stores makes the online ordering of medicine an easy and convenient process. For someone who is on sustained medicines can find this facility a boon certainly. A type 2 diabetic can make it a habit of ordering insulin according to his dosage just before his stock ends. In the busy schedule of work and family, remembering to buy your regular medicines is often overlooked, especially by women engaged in managing home and work.

2. For differently abled and elderlies: For elderly people and the differently abled ones, it is usually someone else’s responsibility to make sure that their medicines reach them on time and that they do not miss on their dosage due to unavailability of drugs at times. They would no longer have to depend on anyone to pick medicines for them. If the sale of prescribed drugs online are regulated to ensure that they reach on time, the online delivery service of medicines can be relied on for elderlies and differently abled people to have access to their medicines with ease.

3. Cheaper healthcare: Online medicines would definitely be available for price lesser than the ones that local retailers have to offer, just as all other e-tailers have been doing to stay ahead of retailers. It will infuriate pharmacists but low priced medicines will be a blessing for the lower and middle class who find it very difficult to follow on high end prescribed drugs. Government hospitals and healthcare clinics do provide cheap and free medicines but it is to be noted that not every prescribed drugs come under this category. Apart from basic medicines, people have to spend money buying drugs from outside the government healthcare centres.

4. Privacy: If one is suffering from an illness that he might want to keep private and not announce to the whole world about it, online ordering of medicines could be a great option. For instance, a sex related illness would be considered disgraceful in a society like ours. Some people living in remote areas where everyone knows what the other is buying would rather die out of shame than walk to the local pharmacy store to get his prescribed medicine.

Yes, they would promote drug abuse!

1. Self-medication: The most dangerous of the many disadvantages of online medicines is the abuse of drugs and self-medication. Youth are usually keen to get themselves treated with the ease of self-medication and over-the-counter drugs for simpler issues like fever and cold. Noted physicians have supported the ban on online selling of medicine by citing that even simple cough syrups could be dangerous to health if taken without proper dosage instruction or in excess. Abortion triggering medicines, for instance, would be freely made available to youth who want to keep their matter private, hence jeopardizing their lives in the process.

2. Lack of physician’s instruction: Not every drug is safe for patients suffering from a particular illness. With some drugs, comes special precautions to be taken after or during usage. Avoiding a particular kind of food is sometimes instructed by physicians along with some special medicines. There are side-effects to some medicines about which only a physician can warn you. Dizziness and sleep comes with some medicines but unless you are told by a physician, you will only worry when they are triggered after medication.

3. Counterfeit: With the lack of proper regulations, online drug sellers could get involved in mismanagements such as substitution of medicines or delivering the counterfeited ones. There have been cases where it was found that outdated medicines were sold by extending the printed date of expiring on the package. This would be even easier to do in online sold medicines where user would not be able to prove that the outdated medicine actually came from the online site and not from retailer. Whenever there have been cases of product counterfeiting or even contamination coming from online sellers, getting them punished has been harder than ever.

4. Reliability: We all know our courier services and hate them to death for their well-known delay in delivering, always accompanied by a special excuse that comes with season and the list of festivals we celebrate. If Diwali is around the corners, you should simply forget expecting to get the delivery of your product on time. You cannot do the same if your package was to bring you medicines. Shipping delays could be a serious issue if the medicine you ordered was urgently needed as a part of your much needed dosage, like insulin for diabetics.

Conclusion:

Online selling of medicines seems to have equal number of pros and cons. Since we lack regulations as of now, there is more inclination towards cons. We also know that making regulations in India is one thing and ensuring their strict implementation is another. There will always be a fear of fraudulence even if online pharmacists get the nod from government.

If rules are actually made to be strictly followed, the other side of the coin looks very promising. Imagine how easier it would be for remote areas to have access to all sorts of medicines that might not be easily available on their local pharmacy stores. Having faith in FDI and health ministry to make proper regulations before showing green signals to e-pharmacists, we can hope for cheaper and convenient healthcare at our doorstep.

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