PANAJI: According to sources, PharmEasy, 1mg, Flipkart, and Amazon India held talks with health ministry officials in Goa to discuss possible new regulations on the online sale of medicines in India. These discussions took place during the G20 health working group meeting. As part of the G20 health working group meeting, online pharmacies including PharmEasy, 1mg, Flipkart, and Amazon India have held discussions with health ministry officials in Goa regarding potential new regulations on the online sale of medicines in India, according to sources familiar with the matter.
The companies have reportedly been asked to give a formal presentation to the government outlining the benefits of e-pharmacies and their compliance status, as well as the challenges they face amidst the high demand for online medicine. Officials have indicated that a complete ban on online pharmacy sales is unlikely, bringing relief to the platforms. They have also been advised to submit a report on the consumer benefits offered by such platforms, which go beyond just discounts on the sale of medicines and lab tests.
Next month, the online pharmacy companies are scheduled to meet with health minister Mansukh Mandaviya following the submission of their formal presentation. The recent discussions in Goa are significant as they indicate a collaboration between the government and the online pharmacy players after the latter’s previous unsuccessful attempts to convey their perspective on regulations.
One of the sources stated that the meeting between online pharmacy companies and health ministry officials was productive in presenting their views and perspectives. The Digital Health Platforms (DHP), an industry association, will prepare a formal presentation to be presented to the government for their input before finalizing any regulations. The DHP also aims to play a more significant role in industry consultations and is currently adding more members, including Flipkart and Amazon India, as stated by the source.
PharmEasy and 1mg are crucial members of the DHP, while Flipkart operates its e-pharmacy business via Flipkart Health+ and Amazon through Amazon Pharmacy. According to sources, the platforms are somewhat relieved that there will be no complete ban on online pharmacy sales, and they are looking forward to meeting the health minister for further clarity on regulating the industry. Requests for comments sent to PharmEasy and 1mg were declined, and Flipkart and Amazon did not respond to the emails. As per sources familiar with the discussions at the G20 meeting in Goa, offline traders had complained to the government about the discounts offered by online platforms. Although platforms have stopped offering discounts due to lack of funding, the perception remains, and other benefits of online medicine ordering will be highlighted to consumers. In February 2021, the CDSCO issued show-cause notices to 20 e-pharmacies, including Tata 1mg, Amazon, and Flipkart, for allegedly violating rules through the online sale of drugs.
Industry associations representing online pharmacy companies had previously reached out to the health ministry to explain their stance after receiving show-cause notices from the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation for allegedly operating without the necessary licenses. Despite responding to the notices, e-pharmacies expressed their concerns that they were facing anxiety-inducing treatment. The e-pharmacy market in India is supported by both local conglomerates and top global investors.