GoM meets to discuss regulating e-pharmacies

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Medicine online
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The group of ministers (GoM) led by Rajnath Singh held its first meeting on October 30 to give teeth to new norms that will regulate the online pharmacy business.

The GoM was set up after government failed to push the proposal to legalise online pharmacies within 100 days of Modi government’s second term, following opposition from the brick and mortar pharmacies.

“The first meeting of GoM to regulate e-pharmacies was held on October 30. The health ministry made a presentation, explaining its position on the issue. Hopefully there will be a decision soon,” a source told ET.

Defence minister Rajnath Singh, commerce minister Piyush Goyal, health minister Dr Harshvardhan and Gajendra Singh Shekhawat attended the meeting. Besides the health secretary and other senior officials of the health ministry, officials from ministry of electronics and information technology and department of pharmaceuticals were also present.

The health ministry had released the draft rules for online pharmacies last year. According to the proposed e-pharmacy rules, which were opened for public comments in September, only government-registered e-portals could sell medicines and they must retain prescriptions and verify details of patients and doctors.

At present India’s online pharmacies operate in a regulatory grey area. It has not been an easy ride for online pharmacies so far in India.

Last December, the Delhi High Court ordered all online pharmacies in the country to shut by December 20. In the same month, the Madras High Court suspended the ban, after a group of e-pharmacy companies filed an appeal. The order came as a respite for e-pharmacies.

But the health ministry has been seeking to finalise the regulation.

The final rules, once notified, will provide a much-needed boost to e-pharmacies, allowing them to function on a par with the brick and mortar pharmacies.

The ministry had earlier put out a draft documents for comments and received more than 7,000 representations in favour of the draft document.

“Any person who intends to conduct business of e-pharmacy shall apply for the grant of registration to the Central Licensing Authority in Form 18AA through the online portal of the central government,” the draft said.

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