The Union Ministry of Health is mulling shutting down digital pharmacies due to some concerns like misuse of data, antimicrobial resistance (AMR) and predatory pricing of medicines.
In the latest development in this regard, FICCI has written a letter to the Union Health Ministry on February 28, 2023, and has shown concern over the issue. “The FICCI e-Pharmacy Working Group, comprising industry leaders, has been relentlessly addressing challenges faced by the sector through various representations, conferences, and knowledge sessions.
FICCI has also assisted the industry in developing an “e-Pharmacy Code of Conduct” to ensure high standards of operation. Recently, FICCI published a White Paper titled “e-pharmacies at COVID-19 Frontline Fighting the Odds. Serving the Nation,” highlighting the crucial role of Pharmacies during the pandemic,” the copy of the letter read.
“India requires a future-ready digital health system, as highlighted in the COVID-19 pandemic. To achieve affordable and effective universal health coverage, e-pharmacies offer a robust digital foundation with complete tracking and traceability of medications, a vital component in the pharmaceutical supply chain.
By improving access and compliance, e-pharmacies have proven to be essential services, as demonstrated during the pandemic when they were allowed to function. Our honourable Prime Minister himself recognised and praised their dedication in enabling doorstep access to medicines during the challenging phase of COVID,” it further said.
In a letter to Union Health Ministry, the FICCI mentioned the benefits of E-Pharmacies even in rural areas of the country.
It said, “Digital health is a key area of focus for India during its G20 presidency this year. The government’s major initiatives to improve healthcare affordability and accessibility through digital means require access to medications. e-Pharmacies serve as a strong foundation to improve access to affordable medicines, especially in rural areas with limited supply chains and frequent stock-outs.
By extending internet and broadband services to rural areas in line with the Digital India program, e-Pharmacies can significantly enhance access to pharmaceuticals.”
“There are no grounds for any apprehension that e-pharmacies will cause a significant loss of jobs nationwide. In actuality, the introduction of e-Pharmacy in the nation has resulted in the creation of more and multiple occupations in a variety of new fields, including artificial intelligence, machine learning, blockchain, the Internet of Things, data analysis, etc.
In addition to this, the e-Pharmacies have given thousands of individuals alternative opportunities for tangential employment,” it added.
“Given the foregoing context, we humbly request and appreciate your generosity in undertaking the appropriate actions to cease the futile harassment endured by our members and towards support for regulatory policies in order to promote ease of doing business. In order to eliminate any regulatory ambiguity and to cohere with all the existing regulations, with which the e-Pharmacy is already compliant, we also request and seek your support for the prompt notification of the “Draft e-Pharmacy Rules” and the “NEW DRUGS, MEDICAL DEVICES AND COSMETICS BILL. 2022,” the letter said.
The letter written by FICCI has also mentioned that there are no valid reasons that E-Pharmacies shouldn’t operate in the India market place.
The FICCI has also given detailed representation highlighting their concerns and also requested the officials of the Union Health Ministry for a meeting.
Earlier on February 28, 2023, the CDSCO sent show-cause notices to top 20 E-Pharmacies.