Delhi High Court puts online sales of drugs on prescribed medicines on hold

The Delhi High Court has stayed the sale of drugs and prescribed medicines by online pharmacies.

A bench of Chief Justice Rajendra Menon and Justice V K Rao has passed the interim order on a plea seeking a ban on “illegal” sale of drugs and medicines online.

Advocate Nakul Mohta, appearing for the petitioner, said: “As an interim measure, the court has stopped unauthorized sale of medicines on the Internet, and the government has been asked to take necessary steps forthwith.”

The court had earlier sought responses of the Centre, Delhi government, Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation, Pharmacy Council of India on the petition.

The court has listed the matter for further hearing on March 25 next year.

The petition filed by Zaheer Ahmed said the illegal online sale of medicines would lead to a drug epidemic, drug abuse and mis-utilisation of habit forming and addictive drugs.

It claimed that the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation and an expert committee appointed by the drug consultative committee have already concluded that the online sale of medicines is in contravention of the provisions of Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940 and the other allied laws.

Still lakhs of drugs are being sold on the internet every day, it said, adding that some of the drugs/ medicines contain narcotic and psychotropic, and some can cause antibiotic resistant-bacteria which is a threat not only to the patient but to the humanity at large.

“It is a matter of public knowledge that e-commerce websites have been caught on numerous occasions of selling fake products. Unlike consumer items, drugs are extremely potent substances and consuming wrong dose or fake medicine can have fatal consequences on the patient,” it said.

The petition said that as of now there is no mechanism to control the sale of medicines on the Internet and this puts the health and life of people at high risk and affects their right to a safe and healthy life under Article 21 of the Constitution.

A large number of children use the Internet, and they could be victims of wrong medications, it added.

“Online pharmacies are operating without a drug license and cannot be regulated in the present regime. Unregulated and unlicensed sale of medicines will increase the risk of counterfeit, misbranded and sub-standard drugs being sold,” the plea said.

It claimed that the online pharmacies are selling prescription medicines in large numbers without a valid prescription which was a dangerous trend.

The plea has sought direction to the authorities to take action against the entities distributing, selling or exhibiting drugs on the internet.

It has also sought direction for the constitution of an expert committee to find out the total number of websites which are distributing and selling the drugs in the country and to impose a ban on the online sale and purchase of medicines.