Chemists took out marches at Jantar Mantar in Delhi and Azad Maidan in Mumbai and submitted memorandums to the PMO, the union health minister JP Nadda and Mumbai chief minister Devendra Fadnavis.
Despite last minute efforts by the health ministry, and condemnation by the Indian Pharmacist Association, 8.5 lakh chemists across India went on a one-day strike, protesting e-pharmacies and the sale of online medicines.Reports from different states said that some 12,000 chemists in Delhi, 35,000 in Punjab and Haryana, 55000 across Maharashtra, among other states pulled down their shutters on Wednesday, responding to a call for strike by the All India Organisation of Chemists and Druggists.Chemists took out marches at Jantar Mantar in Delhi and Azad Maidan in Mumbai and submitted memorandums to the PMO, the union health minister JP Nadda and Mumbai chief minister Devendra Fadnavis.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Representatives from the AIOCD had met officials from the Ministry of health and family welfare on Monday to submit a list of complaints against online pharmacies. Simultaneously, 11 e-pharmacies came together to form the Indian Internet Pharmacy Association, to clarify their stand, their practice and their business model.Speaking to dna, JS Shinde, president of the AIOCD said that his concern was mainly the poor drug regulation in the country. If, he argued, the government had no machinery to implement the law of the land in existing,traditional pharmacies, then how could they regulate another business model? How would they ensure that prescriptions weren’t fake, dangerous drugs and narcotics weren’t being bought, drugs sold were of proper quality?”Online pharmacies are illegal currently under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act,” said Shinde.Though, online pharmacists point out that conventional chemist stores often flout regulations, sell drugs without prescription, Shinde replied that, “Just because we have flaws in our system, does that mean they get permission to make the same mistakes.”Prashant Tandon, newly appointed president of the IIPA and CEO of 1mg.com, an online pharmacy, countered all concerns of the AIOCD, saying that their system was far more secure and superior to the existing one. “We can track all our orders, all batches of medicines, we have records of all prescriptions. Everything can be tracked and all our records can be audited by regulators.” He said he welcomed the regulators, as the online industry wanted to engage them and work with them.”We don’t touch schedule X drugs, such as narcotics and psychotropics, even if we get a prescription. We want more clarity on the subject ourselves,” he added. Despite Shinde’s claims of much murky business happening online, Tandon said that they had already caught few people placing fake orders to abuse medicines on sites under the IIPA.The crux of the problem, it seems, is money after all talk of looking out for public safety, AIOCD also admits that online pharmacies will hit their business so badly that many chemists and their workers could hit the streets.Tandon tried to allay these fears. The industry in India is worth around an estimated Rs. 80,000 crore, of which he said, the online industry would only make up 0.1 percent. “We’re just starting out. We are complementary in nature, we’re not going to replace traditional chemists. We work with the existing eco-system, with established retailers and vendors who are looking to leverage technology to expand their reach,” he said. He did add that a certain section of the industry was completely opposed to change, as is the case whenever any “new innovation” comes about.For now, the matter lies with Dr Harshdeep Kamble, Commissioner, Food and Drug Administration, Maharashtra, who heads a subcommittee formed to look into the presentations made for and against online pharmacies, by all stakeholders, over the past month.