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High Court Stays Ban on Online Pharma Sales

A division bench of the Madras High Court in an interim order stayed the single judge bench order that banned the online sales of drugs and posted the case for final hearing for January 24. The same division bench had on December 20 provided temporary relief to online pharma companies by suspending the ban while hearing an appeal filed by a clutch of online pharma companies. The bench of justice M Satyanarayanan and justice P Rajamanickam passed the order observing that banning of the online sale of medicine all of a sudden would impact the needy patients who had already ordered for it. The single bench of the high court, on December 17, had slapped a blanket ban on the sale of online medicines until the Center notifies the rules for the e-medicine marketplace. The high court has set a deadline of January 31, 2019 for the Center to notify the rules which are reported to be in the draft stage. The division bench said that though there won’t be any ban for online sales, the directive to the Center to notify rules remains in force.

Justice Pushpa Sathyanarayana, on December 17, passed the order directing the Center to notify the rules before January 31, 2019 and asked the online pharmacies to get approval from the authorities for their operations post notification of the rules. Till then, the court had said, the stay on online sales of medicines would prevail. The high court’s ban order came on a writ petition filed by the Tamil Nadu Chemists and Druggists Association (TNCDA) seeking to block all websites carrying online sale of Schedule H, H1 and Schedule X medicines in violation of Rules 65 and 97 of the Drugs and Cosmetics Rules, 1945, till the licences are granted to sell medicines through online. TNCDA had argued that the prevailing regulation has no provisions for selling medicines online. Besides, since the draft rules are still under consideration, the current sales of medicines online are not legal.

It argued that as per the existing regulation, non-OTC drugs could only be sold by a registered pharmacist against prescription and only from the premises for which the licence has been issued by the drug regulatory authority. Reacting to Wednesday’s court order, Pradeep Dadha, founder & CEO, Netmeds.com said: “We are pleased with the order posted by the division bench of the Madras High Court staying ban on sale of online medicines till further orders. We are extremely grateful for the observations made by bench which validates the work that we have put in for the last three years. As part of the observations, the bench recognized that mechanisms are in place to prevent any real abuse of process by the online pharma sector. One of the most pertinent observations made was that the central government is not opposed to online pharmacies, and is actively putting in place systems for regulating the sales.” – Financial Express

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