The letter, a copy of which ET has seen, claimed that home delivery cannot be undertaken by any online pharmacy and entities doing so are facing ‘contempt of court’. “E-pharmacies are illegal and not recognised by the laws under the Drug & Cosmetics Act. The rules also say sale of certain drugs need to be accompanied by prescriptions,” the letter claimed. It alleged that the government allowed home delivery of medicines during the Covid pandemic for neighbourhood pharmacies.
Amazon India launched its pharmacy business in Bengaluru last week and is conducting pilots in other cities. Besides Amazon, Reliance Retail too is foraying in the rapidly-growing e-pharmacy segment through Smart Point outlets. Existing players in the category include Netmeds, 1mg, Medlife and PharmEasy.
Delhi High Court lawyer Ajay Tejpal said the emerging scenario may require appropriate amendments in various legal provisions to balance out safety with consumer demand as well as interests of the pharmacy business as it exists at present. “While foraying in the online pharmacy space may lead to allegations of breach of existing rules especially those concerning sale of prescription drugs and requirements of licensed pharmacists, the Covid situation has highlighted the genuine requirement of online sale of medicines,” Tejpal said.
An email addressed to Amazon India seeking comment remained unanswered till press time.
The medical association’s letter also stated that home delivery of medicines would require extensive modification to the Drug and Cosmetics Act. “It (home deliveries) cannot be undertaken by any online pharmacy and entities doing so are already facing contempt of court proceedings,” the letter said.
An EY report forecasted the market for e-pharmacies to touch $18.1 billion by the year 2023, up from $9.3 billion in 2019.
Industry watchers said the sector offers bigger margins compared to grocery retail since it eliminates the need for middlemen.