A recent notification from the Mnistry of Health and Family Welfare could adversely impact online pharmacies and retail deliveries, making it difficult for them to deliver medicines, even though by definition both fall under “essential services,” as allowed by government under lockdown.
The notification, dated March 26, lays down these conditions- that a person licensed to sell and deliver drugs will have to submit an e-mail ID for registration with the licensing authority if prescriptions are to be received through email, the drugs be supplied at the doorstep of the patients located within the same revenue district where the company holding the license to sell is located,and in case of chronic diseases, the prescription will be valid for medicine delivery only if it is presented to the drug retailer within 30 days of its issue. In acute cases, the prescription will be valid only if it is presented to licensee within seven days of its issue.
The industry has raised concerns with these, considering that delivery of medicines is often facilitated by online marketplaces, which connects sellers and customers, on the same lines as a Flipkart or Amazon. In such cases, the marketplace does not hold a licence but act as intermediaries.
Also, the provision to allow medicines to be delivered only if available within the same revenue district will likely deprive customers from being able to access important medications if they are not available in the same area as the customer. For example, a customer looking for a specific medicine in Delhi can only be provided the medicine by an online pharmacy if it is available in its Delhi stocks or with Delhi pharmacies connected to the platform, even though the same medicine may be available in another neighbouring city.
The industry is also concerned about the chronic disease prescription not being more than 30 days old. “Chronic medication is required by patients over long term, and in these circumstances (under lockdown) it is unreasonable to expect them to get a new prescription each month,” said one of the industry players who did not wish to be named.
Netmeds, which does not deliver medicines via riders but through courier services said the current challenge for them is that courier companies are not accepting orders.
“The country has seen an unprecedented upsurge of over 1,400 per cent in sanitation products, and over 500 per cent in disinfectants in the last two weeks alone. We have ensured that Netmeds.com has adequate stocks of hand sanitizer at government-approved rates as per the directive issued by the Centre,” said Pradeep Dadha, Founder and CEO of Netmeds.com. This, he added, will be extremely beneficial for the lakhs of people who were being forced to pay a premium for the product by some opportunistic retailers.
Bengaluru-based Medlife, which delivers medicines across the country, welcomed the MoHFW notification and said it has the capability to cater multiple orders within a short span of time.
Industry body Internet and Mobile Association of India is learnt to be working on a submission highlighting some of these issues.
There was widespread confusion and problems on the first day of the national 21-day lockdown which began this Tuesday, when delivery personnel carrying e-commerce orders, food and other essential items were stopped and mistreated by local police in several cities.
A day later, local administrations and police spoke to the platforms, assuring smooth passage for their delivery personnel. With the State borders closed, the issue of smooth passage of goods was sorted by offering curfew passes in some cities.