Nearly Rs 20,000 crore has been invested by Chinese investors in online pharmacy retailers in the country

NEW DELHI: Amid geopolitical tensions between China and India, the government stands firm on its decision to ban online sale of drugs and medicines, as the neighbouring country has as much as Rs 20,000 crore direct investments in this segment, government sources privy to this matter told this newspaper.

Chinese control in ePharmacy will be detrimental to national security and the government doesn’t want its dominance in such a critical sector. However, as per a top government official, banning online sale of drugs will not happen overnight as the sector has over Rs 50,000 crore FDI. “Banning of online sale of drugs will take a long time as foreign investors have put in as much as Rs 50,000 crore in this segment.

Chinese firms have invested Rs 20,000 crore. As the stake is quite high in the online segment, many firms may take the court’s route and appeal against the government’s injunction,” the official said. This newspaper had earlier reported about the government issuing show cause notice to over a dozen firms including Amazon, Practo, Tata1mg, PharmEasy, Apollo, Zeelabs and Healthcart for selling drugs online without necessary licences.

The government isn’t satisfied with the responses it got on the show cause notices, said sources. “There can be severe repercussions of allowing sale of drugs via online mode due to China’s dominance. Firstly, China may stop supplying necessary medicines in future besides selling substandard medicines,” the official stated.

China is a prominent player in India’s pharma space as the country imports over 80% bulk drugs or active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) and other intermediaries from Chinese firms. Industry experts are divided on the Centre’s move to put a ban on e-Pharmacies.

“I am in agreement with the government on banning online sale of drugs and medicines. People avoid taking doctors’ prescriptions to save money but that comes at a cost of not getting the right medicine. But it will be difficult to enforce complete ban as the chemists won’t adhere to it and here will be another black market in the medicine sales which bypasses the law,” Samiran Nundy, former head of the department of gastrointestinal surgery at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) and co-author of the book “Healers or Predators: Healthcare Corruption in India” said,

Reining In e-Pharmacies

Online pharmacies have received FDI of Rs 50,000 cr
Chinese firms have invested Rs 20,000 cr
Govt isn’t satisfied with responses it got on show cause notices, said sources
Industry experts are divided on Centre’s move to put ban on e-Pharmacies
Govt had earlier issued show cause notice to over a dozen firms including Amazon, Practo, Tata1mg