FDA files case against Snapdeal CEO for selling prescription drugs
The state Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has launched criminal proceedings againste-commerceportal Snapdeal.com on the charge of selling prescription drugs, despite being issued a warning in April. According to the law, it's illegal to sell drugs– online or otherwise – that require prescription by qualified doctor as indiscriminate use of such medicines can be very harmful.
An FIR has been registered by the Panvel police against Kunal Bahl, CEO of Snapdeal, and other directors. If proven guilty, the persons named could face a maximum of five years behind bars. The company said it was cooperating with the FDA and had taken off the medicines from its list.
The action againstSnapdealcame following a complaint by a consumer who had ordered Vigora tablets, which contain sildenafil citrate – popularly known as Viagra, and Ascoril Expectorant through the site.
FDA first conducted a raid in the firm's Goregaon premises. "A list of 45 drugs was procured and a notice was served to the website to delist the identified products from the internet," said state FDA commissioner Dr Harshdeep Kamble.
The list accessed by dna revealed that all sorts of medicines – allopathic and ayurvedic – were being sold online. The drugs claimed to provide relief from mental stress and enhance memory. Other drugs claimed to help regulate menstrual cycle. There were drugs sold as sex stimulants, capsules for enlargement of penis and breasts. Amongst those tackling diseases, the list included drugs that claimed to treat infertility, erectile dysfunction. Some herbal concoctions were shown as capable of burning fat and controlling blood sugar.
Even after assuring that the list of drugs would be taken off the website, the company allegedly continued with their online sale. It was then an FDA official ordered emergency contraceptive pills I-Pill and Unwanted-72 tablets through the website.
"One strip of Unwanted-72 consisting of three pills and one strip of I-Pill consisting of one tablet was delivered at the FDA official's home on April 24, after the order was placed on Snapdeal. The invoice was received by the official in the name of a Gujarat-based distributor, who had supplied the medicines," said Kamble.
The officer said that up to 150 licensed wholesalers and distributors in Delhi, Rajasthan, Gujarat and other states are under scanner for tying up with online websites to supply medicines.
"Consumers place orders through internet via websites like Snapdeal, Pharmease, ChemistOnline or Shopclues for medicines. Emails are sent to wholesale or retail chemist suppliers based in India across states by the website to procure the drugs. As soon as orders are received, the Indian suppliers procure the cheapest available drugs from domestic pharma companies. The medicines are then couriered to customers," said Kamble.
"As soon as the medicine reaches the consumer, the website releases payment for the drugs to the distributors after claiming its commission," he said.
Snapdeal spokesperson said, "In this matter, we are assisting the FDA team in this investigation and we will continue to do so. We have already delisted the products and said sellers and also stopped payment, in addition to providing all information to the FDA team as required by them."
"Though we invest significantly in educating 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. Upon being notified of any such products, we delist the products and take appropriate action against such seller," the spokesperson said.
Other websites like Shopclues.com, Pharmease.com, Chemistonline.com are being checked for similarly selling drugs. "In fact online sale of medicines is ten percent cheaper than the retail market price. Such incentives and discounts are offered to consumers to lure them into buying drugs online," said an FDA official.