Amazon and Flipkart Health plus are among the 20 online sellers that have been issued show-cause notices by the Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) over the online sale of drugs in violation of norms.
The show-cause notice dated February 8 by DCGI V G Somani cited a Delhi High Court order dated December 12, 2018, which prohibits online sales of medicines without a licence.
The notice stated that the DCGI had forwarded the order to all state and Union Territories in May and November 2019 and again on February 3 for necessary action and compliance.
"In spite of the same, you are found to be engaged in such activities without a licence," the notice to the online medicine sellers said.
"...You are hereby asked to show cause within 2 days from the date of issue of this notice, why action shall not be taken against you for sale, or stock, or exhibit or offer for sale or distribution of drugs in contravention of the provisions of the Drugs and Cosmetics Act 1940 and rules made thereunder," the notice said.
The notice states that the sale or stock or exhibit or offer for sale or distribution of any drug requires a licence from the concerned state licensing authority and conditions of a licence are required to be complied with by the licence holders.
The DCGI has said that in case of no reply, it will be presumed that the company has nothing to say in the matter and necessary action will be initiated against them without any further notice.
When contacted, Flipkart Health Plus said that it is a digital healthcare marketplace platform that enables easy and convenient access to genuine and affordable medicines and healthcare products, from independent sellers, for millions of customers across the country.
"We have received the notice from CDSCO (Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation) and are responding to it appropriately. As an organisation, we remain committed to complying with the laws of the land and towards continuous improvements of our processes/checks and controls on our marketplace platform to build trust and enhance customer experience," Flipkart Health Plus said.
Email queries seeking comments over the development sent to Amazon India and others did not elicit any reply.
Traders body Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) National President BC Bhartia and Secretary General Praveen Khandelwal in a joint statement demanded the government to strictly enforce the law and the judgment of the Delhi high court and ensure that no e-commerce company is selling medicine violating the Drug and Cosmetic Act.
"Government must take strict action against the e-commerce, e-pharma intermediaries, marketplace platforms including Amazon and Flipkart who are selling the medicine without obtaining the requisite license-added the trade leaders," the statement said.
CAIT added that several online medicine sellers are foreign-controlled and therefore, are ineligible to seek these retail licences as this would be a violation of the extant Foreign Direct Investment policy in the multi-brand retail sector or inventory-based e-commerce.