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  • 08 March, 2023

  • 7 Min Read



The Ministry of Health sent "show cause" letters to at least 20 businesses in February 2023 for online drug sales, including Tata-1mg, Flipkart, Apollo, PharmEasy, Amazon, and Reliance Netmeds.

What is e-pharmacy?

  • E-pharmacy refers to the purchasing and selling of drugs and other pharmaceutical products through a website or another electronic channel. These are online stores where customers can buy medications without going to physical pharmacies.
  • Brick and mortar pharmacies are operated by about 8.4 lakh pharmacists throughout India's neighbourhoods.
  • E-pharmacies provide the convenience of home delivery of medications to a person's doorstep through websites or mobile apps on the Internet.
  • When compared to conventional pharmacists, they provide drugs for sale at a discount of at least 20%.
  • While placing an order for scheduled medications, patients can upload pictures of their prescriptions.

Indian e-pharmacy scenario:

  • The Indian pharmacy market is sizable and ranked 13th in terms of value and third in terms of volume internationally as of 2017. The e-pharmacy market, however, is only thought to make up a small portion of that. In India, there are more than 200 start-ups for online pharmacies.
  • In India, e-pharmacy has grown significantly in recent years and is anticipated to expand at a strong growth rate of 21.28% CAGR from 2021 to 2027.
  • Rising healthcare expenditures, more internet and smartphone use, and rising convenience and accessibility demands are the key causes causing this growth.

E-Pharmacies' Development:

  • At COVID-19, the urgent need for drug doorstep delivery was felt. During the lockdown, home delivery services were used by around 8.8 million households.
  • In order to sell medications, e-pharmacies claim to have partnerships with retail pharmacists and refer to themselves as doorstep delivery facilitators.

What are view against online pharmacies?

  • Trade associations of active pharmacists and chemists are e-pharmacies' most ardent detractors.
  • They contend that both the jobs created by the industry and the venture capital-backed e-pharmacies pose a danger to their way of life.
  • They contend that e-pharmacies will facilitate drug misuse and the selling of subpar or fake medications, endangering the public's health.
  • Impact on retail sellers: As e-pharmacies have grown, retail sellers have begun to worry that their operations may suffer as a result of being unable to compete with the lower prices offered by online platforms.
  • Privacy considerations: Online medicine purchases raise medical privacy concerns because patient medical information may be divulged.

Regulatory matters:

  • The 1940 Drugs and Cosmetics Act covers medications. The 1940 Medicines and Cosmetics Act, however, does not specifically address online pharmacies. As a result, there are no established rules in India to govern, supervise, and oversee online pharmacies.
  • Promotion of self-medication: It is feared that e-pharmacies may encourage the already prevalent in India habit of self-medication or the irrational use of medications.

View of Competition Commission of India:

  • In a recent policy report, the CCI made the point that excessively large trade margins are a factor in India's high medicine pricing.
  • It also mentioned how trade associations' self-regulation helps them maintain large margins.
  • This is due to the fact that these trade associations have complete control over the drug delivery system, which discourages competition.
  • Thus, the Competition Commission of India (CCI) suggested that more e-pharmacies be supported.
  • Transparency can be achieved through the electronic trading of medications via online platforms where adequate regulatory measures are in place.
  • As seen in other product areas, it can also promote price rivalry between platforms and sellers.
Advantage of e-medicine:
  • Economic Potential: E-pharmacy is now in its infancy in India, but like other e-commerce categories, it has the potential to grow rapidly in the coming years.
  • The Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) estimates that 5–15% of all pharmaceutical sales in India may be made through the online pharmacy model.
Consumer advantages:
  • More Convenience: E-pharmacy allows customers to easily order medications from their computer or mobile device.
  • Access is improved because online platforms may pool resources, giving Indian consumers access to medications that might otherwise be difficult to find. Also, e-pharmacies make it possible to get care in remote locations where retail pharmacies are few.
Advantage for pharmaceutical firms:
  • For pharmaceutical companies, online sales will result in significantly greater market penetration and a larger consumer base.
Advantages for Regulators:
  • Authenticity: E-pharmacies provide for effective medication tracking, which can assist in locating fake medications. This can aid in increasing market transparency and guaranteeing that authenticity is strictly upheld.
Way Forward
  • The Indian market for online pharmacies has enormous potential to address the ongoing problem of the cost and accessibility of medications. To protect the interests of the customers, steps should be done to promote the e-pharmacy sector with adequate safeguards and strict regulatory oversight.
  • To effectively serve a sizable portion of the population in rural and sub-urban areas with unmet medical requirements, government health programmes, e-health efforts, for example telemedicine, can be linked to e-pharmacies.

Source: Livemint

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