Mumbai: The central government has formed a sub-committee on issues related to online pharmacies under the chairmanship of Maharashtra Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Harshadeep Kamble, sources said today.

The sub-committee, which is expected to come up with a set of norms shortly, was formed by Drugs Controller General of India to assess feasibility of online pharmacies, which was a result of deliberations at recently concluded 48th Drugs Consultative Committee meeting in Delhi, an FDA official said.

The sub-committee, which is chaired by Maharashtra FDA Commissioner Harshadeep Kamble, also includes other members like the Karnataka Drugs Controller along with drugs controllers of Delhi, Odisha as well as Eswara Reddy, the Joint Drugs Controller at the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation, he added.

Incidentally, it was the Maharashtra FDA which took the lead in examining details of major online pharmacies such as Snapdeal, Flipkart and Amazon as well as issued showcause notices to them.

A police case was also filed against Snapdeal by the Maharashtra FDA for selling prescribed drugs online. However, in the wake of information technology advancements and related smartphone-based applications, the importance of moving with the times and an in-depth assessment of online pharmacy practices was felt, the official said.

With the massive development and growth of consumer goods as well as general commodities sold online, it was viewed that drugs are an essential and important item, he added.

It was felt that such a segment in the e-commerce space is critical to a growing population of patients who are looking for efficiency and convenience to access medicines in a timely manner, the FDA official said.

Therefore, the functioning of online retail pharmacies topped the agenda of discussions at the recently concluded 48th Drugs Consultative Committee meeting and led to the creation of a dedicated sub-committee, he added.

The sub-committee would examine the feasibility of online pharmacies to retail medicines in the context of current guidelines as well as regulations of the Drugs and Cosmetics Act & Rules, the official said.

"The sub-committee has been asked to examine in detail the sale of medicines by online pharmacies. Currently, there are many companies running online pharmacies across the country which is a violation of the Drugs & Cosmetics Act.

"In view of this, the sub-committee has been directed to suggest a mechanism as well as guidelines for the functioning of online retail pharmacies," Maharashtra FDA Commissioner Harshadeep Kamble said.

The sub-committee would view the importance of online pharmacies in retailing medicines like over-the-counter drugs as well as Schedule-H drugs.

It would also look into various types of services like the need to accept scanned copies of prescriptions as well as digital signatures, among others, the official said.

The first meeting of the sub-committee on online pharmacies is likely to be held very soon, he added.