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Last Updated on September 18, 2020 by The Health Master
Govt should immediately come out with e-pharmacy policy. E-pharmacies are the need of the hour. It is time that the Union government published the final regulations at the earliest.
On March 26, the Union government issued a notification, in exercise of powers U/s 26B of the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940, enabling that drugs could be reached to the doorstep by the retail pharmacy outlets to meet the requirements during this emergency arising from COVID-19. These rules on home delivery are in addition to the existing rules and are permanent in nature as of now. However, these rules will help only to some extent the brick & mortar chemists but not online pharmacies.
To download the notification, click here
Although the chemists and druggists stores are an indispensable part of the medicine supply chain in the country, according to the recent notification home delivery can be done only against physical prescription or the one received by email as an attachment. Under present circumstances of lockdown of entire country due to COVID-19, both modes are very difficult since majority of customers / patients may not be able to go out or may not have email ID etc.
Whereas the prescriptions in electronic format with digital signature as per the IT Act 2000, after tele-consultation with a registered medical practitioner (RMP) through digital channels including Apps & websites can be done for Schedule H medicines in addition to physical & email orders. This would make a lot more business sense during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Digital India initiative.
In the present notification, home delivery of medicines is restricted to the revenue districts which may not help the patient. This also creates confusion to the license holders. Whereas, online pharmacy platforms have pan-India presence to cater to the patients. Also under present circumstances availability of all medicines at any particular chemist shop may not be that easy. Hence it is better to allow inter-district and inter-state home delivery.
Limiting the validity of prescription for only 30 days for chronic patients is not advisable especially for Schedule-H drugs but it may be OK with Schedule-H1 drugs. This is because it will restrict the scope of essential medicines being available to the patients in need as some might have the prescriptions that were issued beyond the mentioned duration of 30 days. In the current scenario, it is not possible for patients to have access to get fresh prescriptions from their respective doctors. Hence prescription validity may be increased to at-least 6 months from the current 30 days.
While the Karnataka government’s March 26 order allowed telemedicine consultations by RMPs and prescription of medications with certain conditions, now the government could also consider issue of prescription in electronic format with digital or physical signature to help patients.
The other key points in the notification are that the licensee should register his email details with concerned drug licensing authority when the prescription is received via email is appreciable. However any other conditions may be imposed to curb misuse of prescription or self-medication etc.
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