Indian e-Pharmacies Still Await Prescription from Government, to Boost Investments, Bolster Growth, and Bring Affordability and Transparency for the Consumers
~e-Pharmacy Industry looking at contributing to Hon’ble PM Shri Narendra Modi’s visionary Ayushman Bharath Yojana~
Digital Health Platforms (An association of entrepreneurs operating in Digital Health Industry) today brought together the leading players and thought leaders of the industry to voice their concern on the impact of the delay of new e-Pharmacy Rules.
Among the new disruptive technology enabled businesses, e-Pharmacy sector in a very short span of time became one of the most attractive areas for investors. In just four to 5 years, e-Pharmacy sector is successfully catering to a huge number of consumers across the country. Currently the sector is providing quality and affordable medicines to about 50 lakh patients per month, across the country. With current market size of approximately INR 2000-3000 crore, and prospective to grow at about CAGR of over 20% (US $ 3 Billion) by 2024; the sector provides employment to around 30,000 skilled professionals and has the capacity to create huge number of job opportunities. Till date, the e-Pharmacy sector has attracted over US$ 500 million from Indian Private Equity and Venture Capital Association (IVCA) members, alone. The sector has huge potential to attract FDI and directly contribution towards the economic development of the country. But, e-Pharmacies are now struggling with the challenges they are faced with due to the delay in the new e-Pharmacy Rules to be released by the government.
According to industry players, the e-Pharmacy model is well covered under the regulatory purview by the IT Act 2000 under the concept of intermediaries and the pharmacy retail operations are covered under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act. Indian e-Pharmacies are abiding by all rules and restrictions, still with recent questions being raised on the regulation purview of their operations e-Pharmacies are seeking the release of new e-Pharmacy Rules without further delay. The delay has put the industry in a difficult position on many accounts. It is making investors delay their decision to invest in e-Pharmacies, creating uncertainty – making it hard to retain employees, and creating a general doubt around the whole industry challenging the trust of consumers.
As the industry awaits the new draft of ecommerce policy industry leaders, Mr. Prashant Tandon, Founder and CEO, 1mg; Mr. Dharmil Sheth, Co-Founder and CEO, Pharmeasy and Mr. Yogesh Shukla, Director, Medlife came together on one platform to share their outlook.
Mr. Prashant Tandon, Founder and CEO, 1mg sharing his views said, “As a group of e-Pharmacy players, we have been patiently engaging with the regulators and the ministries for over 4 years, and have participated in multiple stakeholder discussions on this matter. Post a very detailed and thorough consultative process, the ministry had issued some draft notification for e-Pharmacy last August. However, these continued long policy/procedural issues are continuing to cause issues around ease of doing business in this space and a simple and clear regulatory pathway is a pre-requisite for innovation to thrive in this important sector. We are committed to working with the government for ensuring we have a best in class system to ensure authentic medicines are accessible in an affordable manner. We hope the government would speed up its processes and move forward with a clear intent. This sector needs a lot of technology and supply chain investments and we must work together to make sure Indian consumers get the best product at the lowest price through a very efficient supply chain.”
Speaking about the current scenario and the expectations from the revised rules Mr. Dharmil Sheth, Co-Founder and CEO, Pharmeasy said, “Pharma supply chain is one of the categories which hasn’t been using technology to its advantage yet. We need more visibility across the supply chain to meet the demand supply gaps and improve the healthcare outcomes in the country. Technology will help every stakeholder – manufacturer/brands, distributors, retailers, customers, doctors to seamlessly connect over a digital ecosystem leading to efficient practices. This will lead to making healthcare available, accessible and affordable for all. We hope the government acknowledges the benefits of digital penetration in this category and empowers every stakeholder by a robust framework and governance module.”
Mr. Pradeep Dadha, Founder and CEO, Netmeds in his address said, “We have worked hard to build the online pharmacy sector from something that didn’t exist five years back, into a viable and critical industry that reaches lakhs of people every day providing life-saving, affordable medication. We have not only set global standards in creating technology and Artificial Intelligence to digitize this complex sector, but have also generated huge databases of healthcare information and contributed analytics with beneficial information about patients, chronic disease sufferers, and provided a deep-dive into health problems faced by people from different cities and states.”
He added, “At a time when job creation is of paramount importance, I am proud to share that the online pharma sector has created over 30,000 jobs and has attracted over $700 million in investment. We eagerly look forward to increasing our contribution by working hand-in-hand with our Honourable Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi ji to help the Ayushman Bharath Yojana take root.”
He further said, “We see great opportunity in helping each and every Indian get access to affordable medicines, knowledge, healthcare and doctors at the tap of a button, and we sincerely hope that the delay in final clearance of the legal framework to regulate online pharmacies is a very short one, because going digital is the only way forward for a robust economy and a healthy India.”
Sharing his views Mr. Ananth Narayanan, Co-founder and CEO, Medlife said, “e-Pharmacies provide access, affordability and genuine medication to millions of Indians. We also supply to tier 2/3 towns and provide accessible health care to all. We hope the government will provide a clear set of guidelines that will allow us to focus on delivering better access and Healthcare to millions of Indians.”
In one voice the industry leaders highlighted that existing well within the legal framework e-Pharmacies have been offering better access to healthcare for citizens across the country and successfully addressing the challenges of transparency, accessibility and affordability in medicines for consumers. And contributing to the vision of the Indian Government of making better wellness and health accessible and affordable for all.