Snapdeal, which has raised huge funding for its expansion recently, saw itself in the mud following raids by officials from the Maharashtra Food & Drugs Administration (FDA) for selling prescription drugs online, without following the required procedural norms.
FDA sleuths raided Snapdeal’s offices in Goregaon, north-west Mumbai, after a clear tip-off that prescription drugs like Ascoril cough syrup, Vigora tablets, and other medicines were being sold online, FDA Commissioner Harshadeep Kamble said.
The FDA has raided to search Snapdeal.com’s offices and godowns but the online e-commerce website said on Friday that it never sold restricted products nor were they found in their premises by the FDA team. But it assured all help to the FDA sleuths in their investigations.
“Though we periodically educate sellers on engaging in fair and safe sales on the platform and consequences of selling inappropriate products, at times sellers end up listing such products.
The problem with such products found in the listing was that the third parties include them without the knowledge of the online platform, which often blinks at such prohibited products. Even other web retailers do include such items.
“Upon being notified of any such products, we delist the products and take appropriate action against such seller. In this case, upon receiving the notice, we have delisted the products and provided all information to the FDA team,” an official spokesperson of Snapdeal.com told IANS.
Now the FDA will investigate Flipkart.com and Amazon.com offices to check whether they are also selling such products online. Under the Drugs & Cosmetics Act, 1940 Sec. 18 (C), read with Rule 65, only a licensed retailer can sell drugs and that too majority of them on the basis of a doctor’s prescription.
The most recent schedule H (2006) lists 536 drugs from abacavir to zuclopenthixol, but enforcement of Schedule H laws in India is still lukewarm as the focus is more on Schedule X drugs, for which a mandatory documentation trail is a must.
Rule 65 also prescribes strict procedures to be adopted by pharmacy stores while selling prescription drugs, especially Schedule H drugs under the Act. Otherwise, sleeping drugs would make their way for an easy online sale on e-commerce websites.
Snapdeal.com has come under radar for allegedly selling various drugs, including those requiring a doctor’s prescription. “Such type of online sale of drugs is not allowed as per the Act. Such kind of self-medication may be harmful to the patients. Snapdeal.com like agencies cannot act like doctor or pharmacist. Through such vigilant actions, the FDA is trying to control the menace of Internet-based sale of drugs which could be harmful to the patients,” Kamble said.
The official said Snapdeal.com has been asked to provide details of the people involved, medical stores, companies, their respective documents including agreements, challans, invoices, payment details etc. Through invoices, the officials can make out whether restricted Schedule H drugs were sold online or not.
The FDA has also directed Snapdeal.com to stop forthwith offers for sale of such drugs from its e-commerce sites and delist them, which the company has agreed to comply with. However, there is no confirmation of any legal action initiated against Snapdeal yet.
With effect from March 1, 2014 even antibiotics and andti-tuberculosis drugs were brought under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act 1940 banning over the counter sale of these drugs under Schedule H to prevent misuse or overuse of antibiotics in the country.
The packaging of these drugs should have a red corner label on the border and chemists should retain a copy of the prescription and maintain a separate register for three years before destroying them.
Following the 2012 Chennai Declaration, rules pertaining to drugs sale has been tightened and raids on Snapdeal may serve as example on other online retailers.