Online Pharmacy A New Venue
An online pharmacy sounds convenient, no waiting in queues, no rushing to the pharmacy, the order can be placed at any time of the day and medicines are delivered conveniently through courier at your doorstep. Yet this convenience comes at a price. In the past few years, the E-commerce platform has picked up its pace globally as well as in India. However online pharmacy concept in India is still at a very nascent stage because Indian law does not permit it but unlike any other categories, it has the potential to be a very large industry segment. An online pharmacy is an internet-based vendor of prescription drugs and the term encompasses both legitimate and illegitimate pharmacies. Online pharmacies in India have significantly increased due to growing E-commerce in India.
Online pharmacy model can expect to account for 5 to 15% of the total Pharma sales in India, largely by enhancing adherence and access to the medicines for a lot of under-served population in the times to come. Indian online pharmacy startups chasing an almost $ 1 billion market are struggling to convert orders into sales. On average, half of the orders received by online pharmacies are rejected because of prescription-related errors. NATIONAL PENSION SCHEME
According to the pharmacy Practice Regulations, 2015, sale of medicine is not permitted outside the alicensed store without being verified by a pharmacist on a prescription written by a registered medical practitioner.
The online pharmacy may have its own cancellation policy and may not refund or only partly refund the amount paid upon cancellation of the order or even in the event of delivery of an order. There is no well-defined legislation for online pharmacies. Pharmacies in India are governed by the Drug and Cosmetics Act 1945, Drug and Cosmetics Rules 1945, Pharmacy Act 1948 and Indian Medical Act 1956.
Online availability of prescription drugs will violate the provisions of various acts like Pharmacy act, Drugs and Cosmetics Act. E-pharmacies are yet to take off like other online businesses but entrepreneurs believe that this sector has lots of potentials. Apart from the local players, former IGATE CEO Phaneesh Murthy has floated an online pharmacy venture in September 2015 in across 10 cities. He has reportedly raised $10 million for this venture.
So far, e-pharmacies in India have been running smoothly but in the absence of proper regulation, buying pills online can be risky. Considering the misuse by E-commerce vendors, the Maharashtra FDA took the lead in examining the details of major online Pharma retailers such as Snapdeal, Flipkart and Amazon, as well as issued show cause notices to them. A police case was also filed against Snapdeal by the Maharashtra FDA for selling prescribed drugs online. However, in the wake of information technology advancement and related smartphone-based applications, the importance of moving with the times and in-depth assessment of online pharmacy practices is the need of the hour.
There are several challenges that can be associated with the E-commerce platform-
- Online pharmacies can promote drug abuse, drug misuse, self-medication etc. Any medication taken without the supervision of doctors may be dangerous and even potentially life-threatening and it could be difficult to verify their authenticity.
- Selling mobile phones and T-shirts could be less problematic than selling prescription drugs, as getting the wrong prescription could ruin your health.
- Online pharmacies may provide rebates and commission to doctors to provide prescriptions on the basis of online information that has been filled by the patient. This way doctors will be vulnerable to malpractice.
- The government need to ensure that only genuine medicines with proper expiry dates are despatched by courier and pricing is done correctly and medicines requiring a prescription are not sold online without a prescription.
The growth of online pharmacies has given rise to a fear among the retail sellers that their business would be adversely affected. The fear of all these physical distributors and suppliers that online sale will adversely affect the footfalls has proved to be unfounded. Around 75-90% of the current customers of medicine shops and pharmacies will continue to be accessed physically.
Over a period, the government should promote and enable secured technological mechanisms that could be used by doctors to prescribe medicines. Registered pharmacies can then deliver medicines based on these computer applications. This will ensure complete transparency. Though there will be initial resistance, the customer push will drive doctors and pharmacies to have this implemented.
The public not only wants but also needs it. The population is ageing with the changing lifestyle but age comes with greater dependence on health maintenance drugs. A regular supply of health maintenance drugs and other medical supplies at the anaffordable offer price and convenient delivery will prove to be an important weapon in the fight against the rise of chronic diseases and scarcity of emergency health services.