Indian traders’ representative body CAIT has urged the government to disallow online marketplaces to sell drugs, which it says doesn’t comply with India’s Drugs and Cosmetics Act and Rules (DC Act and Rules).
In a a letter to commerce Minister Piyush Goyal and health minister Mansukh Mandaviya, CAIT (the Confederation of All India Traders) also called for a ban on marketplace intermediaries to put an end to deep discounting and predatory pricing, which the body claims is hurting offline retailers.
The letter comes on the heels of Flipkart’s plans to enter the fast growing e-pharmacy market with the launch of its new app Flipkart Health Plus.
Flipkart said that its intermediary marketplace platform will serve more than 20,000 pin code areas across the country, and is planning to onboard over 500 independent sellers with a network of registered pharmacists for validation of medical prescriptions and accurate dispensation of medicines.
CAIT national president B C Bhartia and secretary general Praveen Khandelwal said in the letter that the DC Act and Rules – which regulates the import, manufacture, sale and distribution of drugs in India – has strict provisions safeguarding public health and safety.
They said the DC Act and Rules stipulate that “no person is permitted to import, manufacture, sell or distribute drugs without a valid licence or sell misbranded, adulterated or spurious drugs, or sell drugs without an original prescription”.
“We have requested the government not only to ban marketplace e-pharmacies which have been playing with the lives of the Indian consumers, but also to permit only those registered e-pharmacies which distribute or sell drugs, stock and exhibit or offer for sale such drugs,” Khandelwal said in the letter.
Such action will prevent marketplace e-pharmacies from hiding behind intermediary provisions to avoid any liability in case an adulterated or spurious or counterfeit or incorrect drug reaches the consumer, he said.
CAIT also requested the government to ensure that no one is allowed to establish a web portal to act as an intermediary between the e-pharmacy entity and the consumer, which would help prevent intermediaries from getting into creative agreements and operating marketplace e-pharmacy platforms.
CAIT also asked the government to ensure that drugs are disbursed only from a registered retail pharmacy and only by a registered pharmacist.
E-pharmacy, e-diagnostics and teleconsultation are critical segments in this ecosystem. They have been among the fastest-growing segments in this space, as this sector enabled access to healthcare through the pandemic.
The market already has established players including Reliance-owned NetMeds, Tata-owned 1mg, PharmEasy and Amazon Pharmacy.
The overall market is valued at around $1 billion and expected to grow at 50% CAGR, driven by increased health awareness among consumers and greater convenience.