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E-pharmacies Pose Major Threat to Kerala Antimicrobial Resistance Strategic Action Plan

The government’s Kerala Antimicrobial Resistance Strategic Action Plan (KARSAP) may well fail to yield desired results if the sale of drugs via e-pharmacies continues unabated. Though the Health Ministry had come out with draft rules on sale of drugs though e-pharmacies, the Health Department is believed to have voiced its apprehensions on its practicality. The department is concerned if e-pharmacies are allowed a free run, it could undermine KARSAP’s implementation. “Following KARSAP’s launch, the Drugs Control Department is planning to conduct prescription audits at healthcare facilities and pharmacies and promote sale of Over-the-Counter (OTC) drugs. But the presence of e-pharmacies could pose problems,” said Ravi S Menon, State Drugs Controller.

He said despite e-pharmacies providing customers with discounts and door delivery, the ambiguity over prescription and non-prescription drugs is a major concern. “Before coming out with the draft rules, the Health Ministry had sought the opinion of State Drug Controllers. The state had informed the ministry online drug sale might create problems in the longer run and thus a robust mechanism is needed for its management,” Ravi Menon said. He said the state had in the letter to the ministry voiced its concerns over the dangerous situation arising out of the e-pharmacies selling cold-storage drugs like insulin and high-end antibiotics include those for abortion. “Some pressing issues, including assessing the quality of drugs sold via the e-pharmacies, checking the veracity of prescription issued for buying high-end antibiotics and chances of selling spurious drugs through such platforms, need to be addressed if KARSAP has to be implemented,” he said.

Health Secretary Rajeev Sadanandan, who concurred with the view, said, “The e-pharmacies could pose a challenge to KARSAP. In the West, e-pharmacies are posing several challenges to the existing system and the state might also have to confront the issue in the near future.” Furthermore, Sadanandan said if the challenges posed by e-pharmacies indeed have to be countered, then the concept of family physicians (GP) will have to be promoted along with KARSAP. Manpower shortage, lack of standardization of evidence-based medicine practices in healthcare organisations and microbiology laboratories, role of anthropogenic activities in the contamination of water bodies and absence of antibiotic residue control program could hamper KARSAP’s implementation, it is learnt. Nonetheless, a standardized tool to measure the total consumption of antibiotics in human, animals and agriculture products is in the pipeline, it has emerged. – New Indian Express