Indian government has been very lax regarding regulating e-commerce functions in India. Although there is dire need for e-commerce laws in India yet Indian government has failed to address this crucial requirement. There were also some speculations that Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) would regulate e-commerce in India. However, till now there are no sign that Indian government would properly regulate this much needed field.
One area that is grossly neglected by Indian government pertains to regulation of online pharmacies in India that are openly ignoring the regulatory compliances in India. We at Perry4Law believe that online pharmacies laws are urgently needed in India. Even there is no synergy between Digital India, online pharmacies and healthcare laws of India.
A dominant majority of the online pharmacies functioning in India are being run in an illegal and unregulated manner. Many of such online pharmacies are already under regulatory scanner. FDA Maharashtra has recently raided 27 online pharmacies located in Mumbai. Maharashtra FDA has also approached DCGI for regulating illegal online pharmacies operating in India. Surprisingly, many online pharmacies websites in India are controlled by underworld and organised criminal networks. We at Perry4Law have been consistently suggesting that illegal online pharmacies and healthcare websites in India need to be curbed urgently.
In a recent move, the Maharashtra’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has ordered filing of FIRs against Snapdeal.com as well as against its CEO Kunal Bahl, directors and distributors for online sale of prescription drugs in derogation of Indian laws. FDA Commissioner Harshadeep Kamble said investigations into other e-commerce giants like Flipkart and Amazon are also under progress to ascertain if they are also involved in such sales. As on date most of the e-commerce portals are selling prescribed drugs in an illegal and unauthorised manner.
Meanwhile Snapdeal has claimed that it is assisting the FDA team in this investigation. Snapdeal has also informed that it has already delisted the products and said sellers and also stopped payment. However, this does not absolve Snapdeal of its legal obligations and liabilities under various healthcare laws of India. Further, Snapdeal has also failed to observe cyber law due diligence (PDF) that is very common in India these days.
“Jasper Infotech Pvt Ltd, through Snapdeal.com offered for sale, exhibited for sale Vigora Tablets 100, a drug containing Sildenafil citrate, to be sold on the prescription of a registered medical practitioner – specialist endocrinologist, venerologist, psychiatrist, dermatologist,” Kamble said. The drug was sold by “Mittal Pharma, Kota, Rajasthan, a seller in agreement with Jasper Ascoril Expectorant”, without prescription, he said. “The drug was also sold by Rishabh Enterprises, New Delhi, a seller in agreement with Jasper, to a customer Amrut Bhagat of Panvel in Maharashtra’s Raigad district through a courier in agreement with Jasper, who collected the cost of drug for Jasper,” he said. The officer said Jasper Infotech through Snapdeal.com exhibited and offered for sale UNWANTED-72 sold by Horizon Medicals, Bangalore, and I-pill, sold by Giriraj Pharmacy in Gujarat’s Gandhinagar, sellers in agreement with Jasper.
FDA has filed an FIR against the persons concerned with Panvel police station, he said. FDA has also sent letters to State Drugs Controllers for action against the concerned people in their states, Kamble said. The contraventions include sale of drug without licence – Sections 18 (c), 18A, rw rules 65 (3), 65(11), 65(17) punishable under Section 27(b)(ii), 27(d) of Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940; and Sections 3 and 4 of Drugs and Magic Remedies (Objectionable Advertisements) Act, 1954. If proven guilty, the offence carries imprisonment of 3 to 5 years with fine of not less than Rs 1 lakh, he added.
A special investigation team was formed to look into the issue of violation by Snapdeal, Kamble added. The godowns of the company were searched on April 16 and 20, he added. It was revealed that Jasper Infotech entered into agreements with different dealers of medicines located all over India to supply the medicines offered/exhibited for sale on Snapdeal.com and to collect the sale proceeds by Snapdeal on their behalf, the officer said. It was found that the e-commerce major displayed and offered for sale about 45 drugs with objectionable claims which contravenes the provisions of Drugs and Magic Remedies (Objectionable Advertisements) Act, 1954.
“Despite written commitment, it was found that Snapdeal continued to offer, exhibit for sale and sale of drugs, namely, I-pill and ‘Unwanted 72′, emergency contraceptive drugs, through its website,” he said. Kamble said he had asked the FDA team to purchase the drugs online and accordingly drugs I-pill and Unwanted 72 were received on April 24. “Only a licensed retailer can offer for the sale of Schedule H drugs, and that too only on the basis of prescription of doctor. Such type of online sale of drugs is not allowed as per the Act,” the FDA chief said.