A recent innovation that has positioned itself as an attractive model in the healthcare space is e-Pharmacy, which in a span of just 4 years, is successfully catering to a huge number of consumers across the country. The market players include some start ups and established corporates. FICCI has been dynamically involved in the policy, strategy and capacity building for this very important sector. The Chamber also supported the industry to come up with a ‘Code of Conduct’ for e-Pharmacies in the country to ensure proper compliance, transparency and high standards of operation along with ensuring the safety of patients.
Currently, there are more than 50 start-ups operating in e-Pharmacy space in the country, which provides quality and affordable medicines to about 50 lakh patients per month across the country in different regions including some small cities. About 30,000 skilled professionals are employed by the sector. The e-Pharmacy sector has attracted Rs 4000 crore plus in FDI so far, and another Rs 2000 crore is expected in the next 2 to 3 years. This signifies the potential of this segment to attract FDI, which directly contributes towards the economic development of the country. Besides, in e-Pharmacies, all transactions have a complete digital trail and can be fully tracked bringing transparency in pharma supply chain. Every order dispensed through e-Pharmacy is against a prescription and has a valid bill, therefore, tax to the government is paid in full.
e-Pharmacy is well covered under existing laws. There is no violation of any existing act and rules in current e-Pharmacy model. However, there are certain difficulties that the sector has been facing towards ease of doing business due to regulatory uncertainty. This is because of the pending Draft e-Pharmacy Rules. e-Pharmacy Draft Rules Provide Sector Specific e-Commerce regulations – aim to harmonize existing laws/guidelines. This is similar to other sectors like FSSAI Guidelines for e-Commerce Food Operators.
The delay in the notification of e-Pharmacy draft rules is causing confusion and anxiety for all the stakeholders involved in digital health ecosystem.
“e-Pharmacies abide by FICCI Code of conduct for e-Pharmacies, and comply with the laws of the land. All the orders for prescription-based medicines are processed only against a copy of valid prescription and are dispensed by a licensed pharmacy having a registered pharmacist. e-Pharmacies strictly do not accept orders for habit forming medicines, narcotics, or any other sensitive medicines. Additionally, given the importance of the e-Pharmacy sector globally, several large investors have recently reached out to the e-Pharmacy players, expressing concern about the general investment and regulatory climate in India and have asked for clarifications. Given the government’s solid track record in making India ‘Open for Business’ we have been trying to allay their fears, ” commented Prashant Tandon, Chairperson, FICCI e-Pharmacy Working Group.
e-Pharmacies in the country align very well with the national development objectives. It’s quite evident that growth of e-Commerce and retail are complementary and reinforce each other. By leveraging the technology in a smart way and under appropriate regulatory control, the-Pharmacy sector has scope of adding immense value to the existing pharmacy retail industry, and also the overall healthcare sector. However, the delay in notifying the e-Pharmacy rules is causing a lot of issues for the e-Pharmacy players in terms of ease of doing business, as a simple and clear regulatory pathway is a prerequisite for innovation to thrive in this important sector. FICCI is committed towards working with the government for ensuring that patients across the country have access to quality and affordable medicines and healthcare through a very efficient supply chain. We hope the government would take into account the importance of digitization in healthcare space which eventually leads to an empowered consumer, and we request the government to notify the Draft e-Pharmacy Rules at the earliest.