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Urgent need to notify draft rules E-pharmacies in India: Prof Bejon Misra

He said that delays on such public health issues are undermining accessibility, affordability, and choice to citizens, thereby delaying the implementation of universal health coverage  

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Prof Bejon Misra, Founder Director, Patients Safety and Access Initiative has written a letter to Prime Minister Modi, requesting to notify the long-pending draft rule on E-pharmacies in India on an urgent basis.

In his representation to PM Modi, Prof Misra has mentioned that today information technology is a strong enabler for patients to improve access to healthcare.

The letter stated, India’s pharmacies, both local neighbourhood retail pharmacists and e-pharmacy start-ups ensured that healthcare needs were effectively met during the COVID-19 pandemic, given the sudden surge in demand for home delivery…..The pandemic has clearly shown that both physical and digital infrastructure can co-exist to improve accessibility to affordable and quality medicines by all players in the supply chain, without any discrimination nor protection in the existing eco-system. In fact, it recorded more business of healthy competition at the marketplace, including at the neighbourhood brick and mortar retail chemist and druggist stores and thus generate more employment opportunities for several qualified pharmacists and storekeepers. These facts have got established by us as outcomes from studies conducted on patient/caregivers expectations and preferences on purchase of medicines. It is also established that fair competition provides informed choice to the citizens and makes healthcare more affordable as medicine cost in India is the major cost in the percentage of the total cost of healthcare.”

The letter also raised questions like:

  • Does this model of retail pharmacy (a combination of e-pharmacy and local pharmacies) make sense?
  • Will it benefit the consumer eventually?
  •  Does it make medicine price more affordable?
  •  Will it benefit the sector in the long term?

He said, “If the answer to all these is an overwhelming ‘Yes’, then why is there a delay in notifying the draft e-pharmacy rules, which was drafted after several rounds of deliberation with all the stakeholders including the patient groups like us! Delays on such public health issues are undermining accessibility, affordability, and choice to citizens, thereby delaying the implementation of universal health coverage.”

The letter also mentioned that E-pharmacy draft rules were framed after more than five years after deliberations by technical committees within CDSCO under the provisions of the Drugs and Cosmetic Act including DTAB and DCC.

Prof Misra said, “As a patient activist, we are not favouring or supporting any particular cluster. We want fair competition at the market place without comprising the health and safety of the citizen. Therefore, we would like to have a law, which is neutral unbiased and in the interest of the citizens irrespective of it being sold to neighbourhood brick and mortar system or from online pharmacy platform. We only need to ensure the modern/advanced technology is adopted without any discrimination and law should be adopted. As we move forward, I would also like to say the law needs to be dynamic and the lawmaker has to understand the dynamics of the technology to ensure safety, quality and privacy of patients.”

The letter pointed out that while the conventional medicine stores are indispensable, enabling E-pharmacies via simple and clear regulatory path is essential to cater to the emerging needs, fulfil the vision of providing digital health coverage across India and ensure successful implementation of the National Digital Health Mission.

 

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