Chennai: More than a month after granting an interim stay on the online sale of drugs and medicines, the Madras high court on Monday refused to vacate the stay, thereby banning the sales through e-pharmacies.

The development comes just three days after the Delhi high court stayed the sale of drugs and prescribed medicines by online pharmacies.

On Monday, Justice Puspha Sathyanarayana directed the Union government to notify rules related to the online sale of drugs and medicines by 31 January and ordered a ban on the online sales till then.

The order was passed following a writ petition filed by the Tamil Nadu Chemists and Druggists Association that sought a blanket ban on online portals that sell medicines, until the Centre implements a set of rules for permitting such sales.

The legal framework for pharmacies in India is derived from the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940, the Drugs and Cosmetics Rule, 1945, and the Pharmacy Act, 1948. The petitioner had argued that despite several amendments to the rule over the last 78 years, there has been no provision for permitting online sale of drugs and medicines.

The affidavit said that according to the law, “it is not permitted to ship, mail or provide door delivery of prescribed medicines".

“Drugs of scheduled and non-scheduled category are available online on different websites and distributed across the country," it said.

Earlier this year, the government released draft rules allowing a one-time registration for e-pharmacies and fixing procedures for sale. The draft provides for patient data protection. The details of patients cannot be shared with anyone except government authorities.

“Any person who intends to conduct 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 said.

Mint had reported that the final rules are likely to be notified in December.

On 31 October, Justice R Mahadevan of the Madras HC passed the interim injunction restraining online sales of medicines and drugs based on a plea moved by the Tamil Nadu Chemists and Druggists Association seeking a direction to the authorities concerned to block links of websites that sell medicines online.

-With PTI inputs

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