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e-Commerce threatening the pharmaceutical industry


Startup & Entrepreneurship

e-Commerce threatening the pharmaceutical industry

The online retail industry is booming in India. And the time is not far off when even pharma online deliveries will make the e-commerce channels profitable. At present, medicines are delivered in your neighborhood area with regional and local retail players dominating the industry. However, with the growing convenience of internet, the consumers have started expecting everything to be delivered at their doorstep.

There are few e-commerce companies which have started delivering medicines online. But according to the law, medicines can only be delivered by a licensed vendor in India. There is no current provision in the Indian law to sell prescribed medicines online.

This trend of ordering everything online is the growing concern of the retail pharma stores. The neighborhood pharma stores have raised their voice on e-commerce affecting their bread and butter.

There are two prime reasons being cited for regulation. Besides affecting the livelihood of the neighborhood pharma stores, there is also a concern of counterfeiting. Is the customer prescription of the medicines to be delivered authentic? And the drugs delivered genuine? Besides, the mom and pop neighborhood stores are also concerned about as to why these companies are being allowed to deliver prescribed medicines. It directly kicks their business model.

But the ground reality is different. The pharma sector on a regional and local level is yet to become completely organised. There are so many retail stores supplying medicines, that enforcing the law to regulate all of them is a big challenge.

The Maharashtra Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the regulatory state body governing the pharma sector has recently drawn its attention towards the issue. The state FDA has announced an investigation into the matter concerning the sale of prescribed drugs online-without a proper license.

The issue has also drawn attention from the government, with the authorities planning a regulatory framework for online sales of medicines through e-commerce. The Drug Controller General of India is in the process of formulating guidelines in consultation with other relevant authorities concerning the pharma industry. The requirement is to bring the e-pharmacy under the legal framework of the Indian pharmaceuticals industry, and the government is just doing that.  Currently, The Drugs and Cosmetics Act do not follow any guidelines for the e-pharmacy sector.

As a result, it is essential to safeguard the interest of the patient by ensuring delivery of quality drugs, and also ensure a better supply network by means technology. Amalgamation of the two will require some homework to be done by the industry bodies and the government alike.

At this point, it is clearly understood by the e-commerce stakeholders that the fate of online pharmacy depends on how the sector is regularized. On a more optimistic note, it should be easier for the government and the authorities to regulate a bunch of e-commerce players offering medicines.

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