Legality of Online Medical Prescription & E-Pharmacies in India
The easy availability of medicines without proper prescriptions and convenience factors associated with #e-pharmacies has also increased the risk of drug abuse, self- medication by patients, sale of counterfeit medicines and poor storage conditions. The requirement of a valid prescription for selling the medicines online is the most important and major challenge faced by e-pharmacies.
The Pharmacy Practice Regulations 2015 mentions electronic prescription and defines a ‘prescription’ as a written or electronic direction from a registered medical practitioner or other properly licensed practitioners to a pharmacist to compound and dispense a specific type and quantity of preparation or prefabricated drug to a patient. The #regulation also states that a scanned copy of prescription can be considered as a valid prescription.
The #Medical Council of India through its Code of Medical Ethics mandates that prescriptions should include doctor’s name, work or clinic address, state or medical council registration details along with the name of the drugs, dosage and duration for which the drugs are to be supplied. However, the practice of this rule is not often seen by the physicians. Often patients purchase prescription drugs without consultation to their physician. It is also difficult to trace the number of times drugs are ordered through a single prescription as there is no system to verify if the medical prescription submitted to the online pharmacy is genuine.
The Draft E-pharmacy Rules, 2018 (“Draft Rules”) which were notified by the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare on August 28, 2018 states that every prescription received on e-pharmacy portal should be verified by a registered pharmacist and details of the patient shall be checked as there is risk of sale of Schedule H and X drugs which are prohibited for sale without a prescription. Therefore, license shall be issued only if the pharmacy is under the charge of a person who is a registered pharmacist and the prescription drugs shall be dispensed under the pharmacists’ supervision. The e-pharmacy portals can also check the validity of the prescriptions by asking the consumer to provide a short video of the patient stating his details and the details of the drug prescribed to him by his physician. The #e-pharmacies are duty bound to monitor the prescriptions to prevent reuse and misuse of the same.
If the e-pharmacies adopt a more diligent approach and use technology then the entire operations can be made well compliant. The same can be done by adopting the following means i.e.
- The patient has to upload a one minute video whereby he/she himself/herself place the order for the medicines.
- The patient has to upload the prescription issued by Doctor.
- Before dispatching the medicines the prescription(s) should be verified. This can be done only for specific drugs and medicines.
- The delivery should be personally made to the patient.
- The acknowledgement of the patient should be obtained in all the cases.
- A tracking system shall be put to place while deploying softwares and artificial intelligence whereby the entire track record for all the purchases made by every patient should be maintained.
The above mentioned steps will ensure the smooth functioning of the e-pharmacy and shall also ensure the compliance towards the law of the land.
Authored By: Adv. Anant Sharma & Akshata Sharma