Express Pharma|January 16-31, 2020
A pharmacy, or an online pharmacy, is one that basically takes an order of medicines over the Internet and then delivers medicine to a patient through mail or dedicated delivery companies. From the first pioneering steps in 2015, the e-pharmacy industry has crossed Rs 3500 Cr in 2018 and is estimated to touch Rs 25000 Cr in 2022 as per a Frost and Sullivan Report.
This rapid growth of the pharmacy business speaks of a gap that exists in the market. For four years, the e-pharmacies have operated in a grey area while the government is yet to formulate concrete regulations for them.
In September 2018, the All India Organisation of Chemists and Druggists (AIOCD), who represent the 8 lakh plus brick and mortar retail chemists, observed a day-long strike. It triggered the Indian Government to issue a set of draft rules for the working of e-pharmacies in India, stating that no person will distribute, sell, stock, exhibit or offer for sale of drugs through an e-pharmacy unless registered.
These draft rules ended the debate against e-pharmacies then. But even after a year, there has been no update on these rules by the Government.
In a November 2019 order, the drugs controller general of India (DCGI) directed all states and union territories to prohibit the sale of medicines through unlicensed online platforms till the draft rules for regulating epharmacies are put in place.
There are two challenges that the e-pharmacies need to navigate. One is the regulatory challenge and the other being the challenge in providing a meaningful value proposition to the population segment it aims to serve.
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January 16-31, 2020