A high-level government panel constituted to review online pharmacies has recommended creation of a national portal to monitor online sale of drugs in India.

The committee submitted its report to the central drug regulator recently. It said that only e-prescriptions or electronically generated and digitally-signed prescriptions should be considered by online pharmacies and these prescriptions could be linked with Aadhaar card.

Online pharmacies will also need to mandatorily display the portal link on their homepage for authenticity verification by users, according to the panel report.

The government panel said that “all e-pharmacies that plan to sell, offer or exhibit for sale medicines over the internet, will need to be registered with Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO) under the Drugs and Cosmetics Rules, 1945”. “No unregistered entity shall be permitted to undertake online sale of medicines,” the panel added in the 121-page report.

The fee for registration of an online pharmacy has been fixed at Rs 1 lakh.

The committee has made doctors indirectly responsible for the sale of medicines through online pharmacies as medical practitioners will have to create electronic prescriptions or paper prescriptions that can be uploaded on the cloud to enable the sale of medicines through the internet.

The recommendations will now be studied by the Health Ministry and suitable changes in the legislative provisions may be considered to allow online pharmacies under strict supervision.

“Online service providers for sale of drugs may be considered as intermediaries as provided in the Information Technology Act, 2000, and the rules framed there under,” the report noted.

It added that “suitable amendments need to be made in the Drugs and Cosmetics Rules, 1945, to define functions and responsibilities of intermediaries. Intermediaries shall have at least one licenced pharmacy in each state where they propose to carry out online sale of drugs”.

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