The Delhi High Court on Friday issued notice in a petition seeking immediate steps for closure of websites offering drugs and prescription medicines online.
The notice was issued by Justice Vibhu Bakhru to the respondents—the Central Government, Delhi Government, Central Drug Standard Control Organization and Commissioner of Food & Drugs Administration. The matter would next be heard on February 25, 2019.
The petition, filed by the South Chemists & Distributors Association, points out that online pharmacies do not follow the provisions of various legislative enactments and rules such as the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940; Indian Medical Act, 1956; Code of Ethics Regulations, 2002; Drugs and Magic Remedies (Objectionable Advertisement) Act, 1954.
This, it argues, violates Articles 14, 19 and 21 of the Constitution of India, as it denies a level playing field between online and offline pharmacies.
It further submits that several drugs have habit forming tendencies, and free availability and uncontrolled usage of such drugs causes serious damage to the health of the users. The petition in fact names several such online pharmacies which allowed it to procure restricted drugs without a prescription or with a fake prescription.
“Thus, the citizens “right to health” under Article 21 of the Constitution of India cannot be compromised by the Respondents Nos. 1 to 4 by not taking action against the indiscriminate availability and usage of drugs and prescription medicines. Further, it is submitted that the State has a duty under Article 47 of the Constitution of India to ensure that the citizens do not get addicted to drugs and do not damage their health by using prescription drugs without any control,” it asserts.
Furthermore, it submits that “several alarming risks” exist in buying drugs online. These include fake and illegal pharmacies, drug abuse on account of fake or forged prescriptions— in some cases being supplied without a prescription; lack of verification about the ultimate user of the medicines; unhealthy competition; abuse of critical health data generated online; and mishandling during transport.
Additionally, the petition points out that the pharmacy stores such as those operated by the members of the petitioner Association are not allowed to advertise and promote their business by offering discounts, as against online pharmacy stores that are being allowed to openly advertise as well as offer huge discounts.
It also relies on a report submitted in 2016 by a sub-committee constituted by the Drugs Consultative Committee under the Drug Controller General of India to emphasise on the importance of regulation of such pharmacies.
It then seeks their closure, and demands application of the same set of rules and regulations to such pharmacies.