Online portals like Netmed, 1mg and Pharm Easy selling medicines through internet will soon come under the regulatory scanner. Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation has proposed rules to monitor sale and distribution of drugs through e-pharmacies, bringing such portals under the purview of the drug law, official sources said.

Such portals will have to register and maintain proper information about stocks, transactions as well as prescription against any sale. The regulator will also do periodic inspection of e-pharmacies. In case of sale of substandard drugs; these portals will be penalised under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, the draft rules said.

“The premises from where the e-pharmacy business is conducted shall be inspected, every two years, by a team of officers authorised by the Central Licensing Authority, with or without the experts in the relevant field or the officers authorised by the concerned State Licensing Authority,” the draft rules for regulation of e-pharmacies said.

According to an official, public comments have been invited on the draft within 45 days, after which the rules will be notified through a final notification. The move assumes significance as in the last two years close to 500 players have entered the e-pharmacy space, despite strong opposition from the chemists running brick and mortar stores. While there are around 15 major players in the segment, a lot of traditional retailers are also gradually making the shift with growing internet penetration and online demand.

Official estimates show sales through e-pharmacy is pegged at Rs 3,000 core annually and growing at 100%. “This segment has great growth potential because e-pharmacies can help make medicines accessible and affordable. This is a growing trend and it will be unfair to stop it so, instead of curtailing it we decided to regulate it,” drugs controller general of India S Eswara Reddy said.

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