Tamil Nadu pharmacists want curb on online sale of medicines to contain cases of drug abuse
Pharmacists in Tamil Nadu have called for quick action to restrict the sale of medicines online, which are being reportedly bought by drug addicts. They rely on a variety of psychiatric drugs, painkillers, including those prescribed for pregnant women.
Six youngsters were arrested last week in Anthiyur, near Erode, for alleged drug abuse for which they had bought medicines online.
Police inspector Mohan Raj, who handled the case, said the offenders purchased the drugs online, primarily painkillers, and then injected themselves. “They included medicines given to women as painkillers during childbirth. We found that the medicines were sent from Delhi, and we are continuing our investigation,” he said.
Drug and Cosmetics Act of 1945, Rule 65(2), states, “Certain habit-forming medications classified in Schedule H and Schedule H1 as well as sleeping tablets used for mental treatment must only be dispensed with a doctor’s prescription and under the direct supervision of a registered pharmacist. There is no system in place to control unauthorised transactions made with fake prescriptions, despite the fact that internet portals also require prescriptions.”
Tamil Nadu Chemists and Druggists Association treasurer SA Remedy said false prescriptions are used through web portals to buy medications. “According to the Drug and Cosmetics Act, a registered pharmacist’s direct personal supervision is required for the sale of medications on the Scheduled List. But how can there be physical monitoring online even if they have a prescription? As a wholesale dealer, I restrict the quantity of habit-forming medicines sold at one time to retailers. Such measures are not applicable if in online sales,” he said.
It is difficult for enforcement organisations to stop the supply of drugs, nevertheless, because it comes from different states and sellers.
An amendment to the Drug and Cosmetics Act is required, according to T Natarajan, owner of a medical store and secretary of the Chemists and Druggists Association in Chennai. “Those medicines used to treat fever, headache, pain relieving gels can be sold online. Those under the Schedule H list, which cannot be sold without a doctor’s prescription in a physical store cannot be allowed to be sold online. We filed a case in the Madras High Court on behalf of our organisation, and in 2018, the court ordered in favour of us. However, there was an appeal and curb on sale was relaxed. Nowadays, the online portals even offer a doctor consultation in case a prescription is not available with the customer. How reliable is that?” Natarajan asked.
Tamil Nadu’s 33,000 medical shops were searched last week. However, PV Vijayalakshmi, Director of Drugs Control for Tamil Nadu, said nothing alarming was found. “There are checks and balances in place with regard to the physical stores. We have voiced our concerns to the government over the online sale of medicines,” she said.
State health secretary Senthil Kumar IAS said online sale of drugs is permitted. “If we come to know of a malpractice, we have been instructed to take it up with the concerned state government. Fake prescriptions can be submitted in physical stores too. These online portals are helpful for senior citizens who can’t step out, and for those in small towns where not all medicines will be available. We have requested the police and cybercrime to keep us posted about such incidents. There is an extra vigil now especially after Chief Minister MK Stalin announced initiatives to curb drug abuse,” Kumar said.