Online sale of medicines: Pharmacists, medical professionals remain divided
On September 28, pharmacists across the country will protest against Union Health Ministry’s new rules that will allow e-pharmacies and online sale of medicines. Several pharmacists have opposed the new regulations, stating that allowing people to buy medications online poses potential risks. However, several other medical professionals opine that such an initiative would be beneficial to the public, who would be able to procure and access drugs that they would otherwise be hesitant to purchase in person.
“We have several concerns,” says N Anandan, Administrative Secretary, Tamil Nadu Chemists and Druggists Association (TNCDA). “To start with, when drugs are handled by trained personnel in medical shops and pharmacies, we know how to store and manage the medications properly. On the other hand, where are these medications being sold online potentially coming from? How are they stored? What is the guarantee that they will be handled properly? These are some of the concerns that need to be addressed. Furthermore, there are chances that there may be instances where young people will misuse some of the habit-forming drugs or may be able to access oral contraceptive medications and other such drugs without proper regulation,” he said.
However, some pharmacists feel that people should be allowed to access medications online this for the exact reason.
“There is so much moral policing that people are often hesitant to buy birth control pills or other drugs at pharmacies. We see many young girls who are unable to access proper birth control because of the judgement they may face when they try to buy them from local pharmacies,” says Dr Madhumathi D, an obstetrician and gynaecologist from Chennai.
She further added that an online platform through which they could access these drugs would help maintain anonymity and encourage them to take appropriate measures.
According to Anandan, there are eight lakh registered chemists in the country. “These are trained professionals who can interact with people and give proper instructions about the medications. If a particular drug isn’t available, we are trained to know what can and cannot be given in its place. This is not something that can be done if someone were to order a drug online,” he said.
Around 35,000 members of the TNCDA are set to join the protest that will be held nationwide on September 28. “Most of our members will be protesting and closing shop for the day, but we have taken sufficient measures to ensure that people do not get affected in emergency situations. However, we are appealing to the public to keep stock of whatever regular medication they may be taking,” Anandan said.