A man purchases medicines at a pharmacy in the Lajpat Nagar area of New Delhi, India (Photographer: Kuni Takahashi/Bloomberg)

After Delhi, Madras High Court Bans Online Sale Of Medicines

The Madras High Court on Monday banned the online sale of medicines until the central government notifies its rules.

The court has asked the central government to finalise the regulations by Jan. 31, SK Chandrakumar, a lawyer representing the Tamil Nadu Chemists and Druggists Association, a representative body of brick-and-mortar pharmacies, told BloombergQuint over the phone. “The court has ordered complete ban until players obtain a licence to sell it online.”

Justice Pushpa Sathyanarayana, who passed the order on a writ petition, held that e-pharmacies in the country can sell medicines online only after obtaining licences under the rules, which are currently in the “draft stage”. The petitioner claimed that there are more than 3,500 such websites in the country.

The judgment comes days after Delhi High Court prohibited e-pharmacies from selling medicines online and asked competent authorities to enforce the ban on online sales. The court had given online pharmacies four weeks to file a counter affidavit.

The decision is a blow to India's online pharmacists which have so far raised more than $100 million in funding this year. “We have yet to see the order copy and hence till then we cannot comment,” Tushar Kumar, founder, and chief executive officer of Medlife told BloombergQuint. “We continue to operate legally with the valid licences in place.”

In August, the government had released its draft guidelines for online sale by pharmacies. “Any person who intends to conduct the business of e-pharmacy shall apply for the grant of registration to the Central Licensing Authority in Form 18AA through the online portal of the central government,” the draft had said.

Under the norms that are yet to be formalised, e-pharmacies are required to register for a licence with the Drug Controller General of India. The licence is valid for three years. Also, the sale of tranquilisers, psychotropic drugs, narcotics, and habit-forming drugs has been prohibited online.