Centre Seeks Extension from Delhi High Court for Framing Policy on Online Sale of Medicines

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GG News Bureau

New Delhi, 17th March. The Centre has appealed to the Delhi High Court for more time to formulate a comprehensive policy regarding the online sale of medicines, citing the complexity of the issue and its potential far-reaching consequences. The Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has been granted a four-month extension by the high court as a final opportunity to draft the policy.

A bench comprising Acting Chief Justice Manmohan and Justice Manmeet PS Arora emphasized that failure to produce the draft policy by the specified deadline would compel the court to take further action. The matter, which involves several petitions seeking a ban on illegal online drug sales and challenging the draft rules proposed by the ministry, has been adjourned until July 8.

Previously, the high court had directed the Centre to submit a status report on the petitions, prompting the joint secretary of the ministry to appear before the court. The officer requested an additional four months to finalize the policy based on the draft notification issued on August 28, 2018.

The central government argued that regulating the online sale of drugs is a complex endeavor, necessitating modifications to various Acts and rules, including the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, Pharmacy Act, Pharmacy Practice Regulations, Indian Medical Act, Code of Ethics Regulations, and the Drugs and Magic Remedies (Objectionable Advertisement) Act.

One of the petitioners, the South Chemists and Distributors Association, contested the August 2018 notification, alleging that the draft rules were being promoted in violation of the law, disregarding the health risks associated with unregulated online medicine sales.

Another petitioner, Zaheer Ahmed, sought contempt action against e-pharmacies for continuing to sell drugs online despite a high court order halting such activities. The high court had previously restrained the sale of drugs without a license by online pharmacies while hearing Ahmed’s Public Interest Litigation (PIL) on December 12, 2018.

The PIL raised concerns about the potential for a “drug epidemic,” drug abuse, and the misutilization of habit-forming and addictive drugs due to the unregulated online sale of medicines. It highlighted the absence of mechanisms to control online medicine sales, posing risks to public health and violating citizens’ rights to a safe and healthy life under Article 21 of the Constitution.

Despite the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation, and an expert committee appointed by the drug consultative committee concluding that online medicine sales contravene the provisions of the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940, and other related laws, the issue remains unresolved pending the formulation of a comprehensive policy

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