- By Dr Naresh Purohit
(Executive Member- Federation of Hospital Administrator)

There is an urgent need for strict action against the e-commerce intermediaries and platforms including Amazon and Flipkart, who are selling medicines without obtaining the requisite licences.

The Government should work on a robust policy and provide clear-cut laws to provide a friendly environment for existing players. This provision may encourage more entrepreneurs to enter the sector and add to the general development of the online pharma business market in India. The successful installation of a rigid framework will increase the number of entrepreneurs, thereby providing affordable alternatives and accessibility to remote areas of the country.

The high rate of Internet penetration is contributing to the market expansion, providing access even in remote locations. Drone delivery is no longer a futuristic idea. It’s the possible misuse, particularly through the online sale of illegal, outdated and counterfeit drugs, however, that has given rise to grave concerns. 

Self-medication and availability of drugs that would otherwise require prescription can be life-threatening. Without the strictest regulatory controls, a health hazard looms for the end-users. The role and duty of the e-pharmacy marketplace have to be defined clearly. 

With success comes responsibility. Platforms which do not adhere to the standards should be made accountable and face the music. The charter for the way forward includes punitive action in case of violations or sale of contraband items, independent evaluation, checks on misleading advertisements or claims and unethical practices, self-regulation along with enhanced consumer education.

The global e-pharmacy market value is anticipated to cross a whopping $206 billion by 2028. India is emerging as a major driving force. Given the population and socio-economic challenges in India, digital platforms can prove to be transformative. Their increasing use by healthcare professionals as well as patients will propel the e-pharmacy industry. That calls for a collaborative public-private partnership, and organic tie-ups between retailers and e-tailers. The interest of the consumer has to be the determining factor in any policy change.

E-pharmacies have given us a clear and accessible path to medicines. This path will be of great importance might we face similar health emergencies in the years to come. E-pharmacy will play a major role in streamlining chronic ailments, and with the initiatives of the Government, its facilities will be accessible to unreserved regions. Moreover, the collaboration of the offline and online pharmacies will be highly beneficial to the customers. It will also boost the countrys economy significantly by attracting many entrepreneurs for investment and unleashing innovation across the healthcare value chain while dramatically improving access to medicines and healthcare quality across the nation.