Ayurveda has become a global phenomenon and nations across the world have also recognised it as a valuable alternative to allopathic medicines. Recently even the World Health Organisation (WHO) has acknowledged the age old benefits of Yoga and Ayurveda. Obviously India would get a major support and recognition in the field of traditional and alternative medical system, including yoga across the world. Till date India never had a collaborating centre for WHO inspite of having a large number of Ayush institutions and 32 collaborating centres for modern medicine. Today WHO has 22 collaborating centres for traditional medicine including India.
Similarly, the Ayurvedic system of medicine is also making a strong comeback. Many large pharmaceutical companies have already invested in Ayurveda. The Ayurveda entrepreneurs are even exploring the medium of e-commerce to expand their reach and business opportunities. The problem is that Ayurvedic e-commerce legal issues in India are also not clear to these entrepreneurs just like their other counterparts. This is a cause of concern especially when e-commerce litigation and legal disputes would increase n India in the near future.
Few of the Ayurvedic products presently offered through e-commerce medium include personal care products, beverages, over the counter alternative health products, etc. While engaging in Ayurvedic e-commerce business, the entrepreneurs must not violate Indian laws. For instance, many ayurvedic e-commerce companies involved in selling of herbal products are violating norms of Magic Remedies Act. Several companies are openly claiming permanent cure for cancer, which is a clear violation of the rules prescribed by the Magic Remedies Act.
Ayurvedic products usually contains metals such as mercury and lead for therapeutic reasons. According to Ayurveda experts, about 35% to 40% of the approximately 6000 medicines in the ayurvedic formulary intentionally contain at least 1 metal. Some foreign countries have considered these metals hazardous to the health of their citizens. The internal policies of these countries have also hindered free flow of medicines and Ayurvedic producs from India to other destinations. For instance, recently the United States Food and Drug Administration (U.S. FDA) issued an Import Alert 66-40 (pdf) titled Detention Without Physical Examination Of Drugs From Firms Which Have Not Met Drug GMPs. This alert deals with detention without physical examination of drugs from firms which have not met drug good manufacturing practices (GMPs). Many Indian pharmaceutical companies have been listed on this alert and import from them has been banned. In fact, Lupin has recalled 9,210 bottles of Suprax drugs for failure to pass purity test.
Border enforcement of intellectual property rights (IPRs) by countries including Europen Union has also posed problem for Indian pharmaceutical and healthcare companies. EU and India even decided to sign a letter of understanding to protect off patent generic drug consignments. Further, due to policy decisions of United States, Novartis AG’s heart drug Diovan was also kept out of patients reach. This is despite the fact that Indian patent law is in conformity with WTO and international obligations. Expiring medicine Patents can boost pharmaceutical business and e-commerce as the generic pharmaceutical companies can provide affordable drugs in large quantity.
Even in India legal issues governing sale and distribution of Ayurvedic products are also required to be complied with by Ayurvedic entrepreneurs. Recently the classical ayurvedic medicines that were sold with prefixes and suffixes were banned by ministry of health and family welfare of India under Drug and Cosmetic Rules. The ban has been imposed to stop the alteration in the classical formulation of Ayurvedic medicines. Many ayurvedic medicines such as Chyawanprash, Rhumayog and others are currently marketed under different brand names, with prefixes and suffixes to reflect the value added qualities.
This is just a single example of the legal compliances that the Ayurveda practitioners and clinics in India are required to comply with. If these Ayurveda practitioners and clinics plan to use the e-commerce model to reach unlimited population, they have to comply with additional legal provisions to stay legal.
If the Ayurveda entrepreneurs plan to manage an e-commerce website that intends to meet the demand of international consumers, then such e-commerce website must not only comply with techno legal requirements of Indian laws but also of different jurisdictions where such Ayurvedic products would be sold.