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Home / Politics / Policy /  Chemists to go on nationwide strike on Wednesday against online sale of medicines

Over 800,000 chemists across the country will go on a day-long strike on Wednesday to protest a move by the government to regularize online sales of medicines.

Chemists have also threatened to go on an indefinite strike in a month’s time if the government does not pay heed to their demand for banning online trade of medicines.

The strike will start at midnight on Tuesday and end at midnight on Wednesday.

“We have raised our protests with various agencies of the government, including the Drug Controller General. If our demands are not met, we will go for an indefinite strike after a month," said J.S. Shinde, president, All India Organisation of Chemists and Druggists (AIOCD), a trade lobby. “These online websites are not following the Drugs and Cosmetics Act and there should be some end to this," he added.

According to AIOCD, the major sites in the online pharmacy business are PharmaEasy, Merapharmacy.com, Medicare.com, Medsnoprescriptiononline.com, 3g chemist.com, Netmeds.com, Online Doctor, Toppills, Medplussmart, Pharmlex, Topgenericmeds, Candrugstore, Planetdrugsdirect, Pharmstore, Candrugs and Doctorsolve.

The lobby said easy access to medicines online can lead to irrational use, increase risk of adverse drug reactions, illegal sales and drug addiction among youth.

AIOCD added that increasing online sales will be a setback for chemists across India, and their workers and families.

“Presently, the online pharmacy business is going on illegally and government authorities are not taking any actions against them even after complaints made by us," Shinde said.

AIOCD alleged that online pharmacies are compromising storage conditions required for transport of medicines as they supply through local courier companies and also makes the recall of drugs virtually impossible.

E-pharma companies, of course, disagree.

“We sell our products based on valid prescriptions only. Moreover, it is an easier platform to get products sold for pharmaceutical companies. We invite pharmacies to have tie-ups and be a part of this and derive benefit out of it," said Pradeep Dadha, founder and chief executive officer of Netmeds.com.

Netmeds.com, for instance, has tied up with India Post as a logistics partner for delivery of medicines across the country. It is promoted by Dadha Pharmaceuticals and investment bank Mape Advisory.

“Only a limited quantity of medicine is sold online. Online trading is the most positive thing to happen to the industry as it may reduce the sale of spurious drugs. Moreover, consumers will get better pricing through online platforms and it is a very convenient platform for the elderly. There are also remote areas in the country where there are no chemists and an online trader can do the business," said Arvind Singhal, chairman of Delhi-based retail consultancy, Technopak Advisors.

Shinde said the association had failed to meet Union health minister J.P. Nadda before announcing the strike.

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