online pharmacy

In this article, Ashwini Gehlot of Institute of Law, Nirma University, Ahmedabad discusses the legality of online pharmacy in India. 

What Is Online Pharmacy?

At an age where everything is going on the web and individuals are purchasing nearly everything from staple to contraptions on web stores, it is the time that the medical and pharmaceutical market makes up to the trend and without a doubt it has. You would now be able to satisfy all your medical needs online, at well, an online pharmacy.

Legal Status of Online Pharmacy in India

The Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940 and it’s given provisions, have set rules on the offer of Schedule H and Schedule X drugs, which can be sold with a legitimate prescription only. Along these lines, in India, where online drug store is taking control over, the administration’s laws have kept up; ensuring no unlawful medication utilization is practiced online. Ayurveda and nutraceuticals likewise have laws that regulate and govern their use.

Formalities to be made when opening an online pharmacy

  • As expressed over, specific laws are to be followed while opening an online drug store and these rules are very stringent.
  • The sum total of what laws have been settled and any online drug store must agree to every one of the standards and directions, nonetheless, there are numerous escape clauses that these drug stores are using for their benefit and illicit medications have been on the ascent.
  • In light of its inconceivability, medical laws can’t be extensive henceforth causing the flow of illicit medications and pharmaceuticals.

How Many Online Pharmacies Are Present

  • The number can’t be precisely assessed, in any case, in light of a pursuit, around 3000 online drug stores were found, and half of them were situated in the USA and 19% in the UK and the adjust in different nations like India, Canada, and so forth. In another discovering, B-2-B organizations additionally offered online pharmaceuticals of which 19% are from India.
  • All the western nations are affectionately utilizing this astounding facility. Likewise, in India, the development of online Pharmacy is altogether heightening. In spite of the fact that India should work harder in persuading individuals about the originality of medications, the extent of an online drug store in India is as still huge.

An Online Pharmacy In India Can Be A Successful Venture If It Can Lure Its Local Audience By

  • Making them acquainted with the way that medicine eCommerce’ exist
  • Guaranteeing them that payments on such site are agreeable and safe
  • Offering aggressive discount like that of physical chemist expert stores
  • Keeping medications of well-respected brands
  • Housing other health care items for purchasing
  • Offering a freedom to pick the sort of payment alternative relying upon person’s comfort
  • Conveying the service to all aspects of India.

Legality Of Online Pharmacy

The essential contention about the legitimacy and viability of the online pharmacy has been with respect to the sale of prescription drugs. Numerous e-drug stores have received a strategy where the customers are required to upload a virtual copy of their e-prescription or prescription This virtual remedy is then confirmed by the online drug store and appropriately the medications are given to the clients. Such a prescription can be utilized just once to buy the endorsed medicine and can’t be re-utilized.

The law in regards to e-pharmacies is loaded with ambiguities, and accordingly has been translated in an accompanying way and partitioned into three categories:

Green Zone

  1. In this zone fall the prescriptions which must be sold -out by a registered pharmacy having a drug specialist (pharmacist) on its payroll.
  2. The orders of the offer must be taken from areas where the retail permit is legitimate and registered. For instance, if the permit for retail is legitimate just in Karnataka, at that point orders might only be engaged for Karnataka.

Grey Zone

  1. Each state has a state drug department that issue licenses for the sale of the medical drug just in that specific state.
  2. There is uncertainty with respect to the sale of medications between various states, in light of the fact that there exist no provisions for an inter- state permit available for sale of medicinal drugs.
  3. There is additionally some uncertainty in connection with the collection of cash before the conveyance of medicines. This raises the question to the legitimacy of the payment through credit/charge card choice given on the sites, where one can make the payment before the conveyance of the prescriptions ordered.

Red Zone

  1. Sale of physician recommended drugs without a prescription from a specialist is prohibited.
  2. Sale of medications at a cost higher than the value given as the maximum retail price (MRP) is an offense.

The legitimacy and lawfulness of e-prescriptions fall into a gray area of the law and accordingly, acknowledgment of these prescriptions by e-drug stores for providing drugs against such prescription has been under the scanner.

Section 4 of the Information Technology(IT) Act manages “Legitimate acknowledgment of electronic records” and Section 5 of the IT Act accommodates “Lawful acknowledgment of electronic signature”. sec 5 likewise gives the three essentials for legitimate acknowledgment is that there ought to be a law that requires data, matter or report should be signed by a man, in place of such signature, an electronic signature is affixed and such an electronic sign ought to be appended in a way recommended by the central government. Run 65 of The Drugs and Cosmetic Rules, 1945 provided that “a prescription ought to be in writing and signed by the individual giving it with his typical sign and be dated by him”.This perusing of sections 4 and 5 of the IT Act alongside Rule 65 of the Drugs and Cosmetics Rules fulfill the lawfulness and legitimacy of an e-prescription, that is to be composed and signed electronically.

The position of law on the legitimacy of e-prescription has been settled by the currently enacted Pharmacy Practice Regulations, 2015. Sec 2(j)(3) of the Regulations give the meaning of a prescription as a “written and electronic bearing from a Registered Medical Practitioner or other appropriately license experts to a pharmacist to compound and apportion a particular sort and nature of arrangement or prefabricated medication to a patient”. This definition clarifies that e-prescription is substantial and legitimately recognizable.

Subsequently, it can be inferred that doctors can prescribe medication to their folks through an electronic remedy also, yet the issue remains regardless of whether the present Indian laws consider these e-prescriptions to be utilized for purchasing prescriptions online too or just to buy from a physical pharmacy.

In India, the sale of professionally prescribed medications is controlled by laws detailed under “the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940, Drugs and Cosmetics Rules, 1945, and Drugs and Magic Remedies (Objectionable Advertisements) Act, 1954”. Every one of these Acts is pre-colonial and in this way couldn’t have expected the online offering of pharmaceutical items through e-pharmacies. Subsequently, these laws are quiet on the issue of e-drug stores and don’t have any laws to direct online selling of professionally prescribed medications. Since the Indian laws are silent on the working and controlling of online drug stores, numerous online pharmacy sites have taken the directions given under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act for running physical pharmacy as being appropriate to online drug stores too, building them to be lawful in essence.

In July 2015, the health ministry of India requested the constitution of a subcommittee to investigate the issue of online drug stores. The Committee has been constituted under the headship of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner of Maharashtra, Harshadeep Kamble. The issue before the subcommittee was the examination of the online sale practices practiced by developed nations and how they have affected public health in these nations and whether their usage is conceivable in India. The committee has welcomed remarks and contributions from different stakeholders, for example, public organizations, trade bodies among others. The subcommittee has not presented its report yet.

On October 29, 2015, the Bombay High Court pronounced that the online offer of medicines provided under schedule H of DCA without a cash memo or a prescription is illicit and requested that the Maharashtra government make the strides important to avoid unapproved and unlawful selling of scheduled drugs on the internet. This was an outcome of a PIL looking for a prohibition on e-pharmacies selling doctor prescribed medications without prescription or money memos.

The rules on control of e-drug stores proposed by FICCI ought to be placed in the drive to guarantee purchaser security while completing the transaction of pharmaceutical items online. Execution of these rules will likewise make obligations with respect to the e-drug stores to ensure that they don’t sell unlawful or fake pharmaceutical items and furnish the consumers with all the fundamental information for purchasing prescriptions online. The VIPPS accreditation program presented by the NABP in the US can be merged in India also to make e-drug stores safe for Indian customers. The idea of planning a protected application for obtaining medicine online will likewise contribute to expanding the ease of access to the buyers to medical supplies.


  1. Verma, N. (2015). Online pharmacy business in India– Past, Present and Future – Better Health with Care, Fitness and Remedy. [online] Better Health with Care, Fitness and Remedy. Available at: [Accessed 10 Aug. 2017].
  2. Gupta, A. (2016). Legal status of Online Pharmacies in India. [online] The Law Blog. Available at: [Accessed 10 Aug. 2017].


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