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The Madras High Court refused to vacate the stay on the online sale of medicines and asked the Centre to notify rules related to such sale by January 31, 2019. The judgment was passed on a writ petition filed by the Tamil Nadu Chemists and Druggists Associaition seeking a ban on websites that offer online sale of drugs until the centre brings into effect a legal framework for such sales.

Justice Pushpa Sathyanarayana held that the pharmacies in the country would be entitled to sell medicines online only after obtaining licences under the rules that were now in the draft stage and yet to be finalised. The court had on Nov 1 banned the sale.

Senior counsel for the petitioners A R L Sundaresan said, it was a matter of serious concern that online sale of drugs were rampant in the country though there was a specific legal bar on selling such medicines without the prescription of medical practitioners. They also said the Drugs and Cosmetics Act was enacted during the colonial era and much before the advent of online trade. Though several amendments had been made to the law over the last 78 years, so far no provision had been introduced in it permitting online sale of drugs and medicines.

Nevertheless, since the Internet had now changed the way people live, work and even shop and also because of enormous growth of e-commerce, many websites had begun to use the medium for sale of medicines too. However, it was questionable as to whether the drugs sold online were safe and non hazardous, the association said.

In August 28 this year, the Centre had come up with draft rules named Drugs and Cosmetics (Amendment) Rules of 2018 for permitting sale of drugs through e-pharmacies. Suggestions had been called for from various quarters before finalising the rules and the petitioner association too had submitted its views. “While so, online sales are being happily carried on by several websites in violation of existing statutory rules… Despite repeated representations made to respondents 1 to 5 (Centre and drug control authorities), the online sale of drugs have not been restrained. There are even advertisements in leading newspapers with heavy discounts,” the affidavit read.

—India Legal Bureau

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