New Delhi: The Delhi high court on Tuesday stayed the ban on sale of drugs and prescription medicines by online pharmacies. The court also said that this stay would continue till rules are framed to regulate such entities.

A bench of Chief Justice Rajendra Menon and Justice VK Rao said, "once the rules come into play, you (online pharmacies) can start selling it (medicines). The problem is that today there are no rules regulating it," 

The observations by the bench were made while hearing the applications moved by some online pharmacies seeking to be impleaded in the matter.

The pharmacies urged the court to remove the prohibition on the online sale of drugs, saying they held licences and no medicines were sold illegally. They also fought that even prescription drugs were sold only if there was a valid prescription from a doctor.

The applications for impleading were filed in a PIL by Zaheer Ahmed seeking a ban on "illegal" sale of drugs and medicines online. During the hearing, the petitioner informed the bench that the Madras High Court on Monday had banned the online sale of medicines till the Union Health Ministry and the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO) notified the proposed Drugs and Cosmetics Amendment Rules, 2018 in the Gazette at the earliest by January 31.

The Madras high court, however, kept the operation of its order in abeyance till December 20, to enable the online pharmacies to challenge the decision. On being informed of the development, the Delhi high court listed the matter for hearing on December 20.

In his petition, Ahmed has said that the online illegal sale of medicines would lead to a drug epidemic, drug abuse and mis-utilisation of habit forming and addictive drugs. It has claimed that the Ministry of Health, CDSCO and an expert committee appointed by the drug consultative committee have already concluded that the online sale of medicines was in contravention of the provisions of Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940 and the other allied laws.

Still lakhs of drugs are being sold on the Internet every day, it has said, adding that some of the drugs/ medicines contain narcotic and psychotropic substance and some can cause antibiotic resistant-bacteria which is a threat not only to the patient but to humanity at large.

"It is a matter of public knowledge that e-commerce websites have been caught on numerous occasions of selling fake products. Unlike consumer items, drugs are extremely potent substances and consuming a wrong dose or fake medicine can have fatal consequences on the patient," it said.

With PTI inputs