The illegal sale of prescription medicines online has become increasingly prevalent in China. Prescription medicine is being sold on various online platforms such as O2O websites, mobile apps and even social networks such as WeChat and Weibo.
However, according to regulations, prescription medicine can only be bought and used with the prescription of a licensed doctor or assistant. A notice on strengthening supervision of the online sale of medicine published by the China Food and Drug Administration in 2013 stipulated that only over-the-counter medicine is allowed to be sold via online platforms. The advertisement or sale of prescription medicine on these platforms is forbidden.
Improper use of prescription medicine can cause serious harm to the body and even endanger people's lives. Therefore the illegal sale of prescription medicines online poses a severe health risk. Weak supervision has contributed to the proliferation of the practice, with food and drug authorities unable to deal with the vast number of drug-selling online platforms.
Besides strengthening supervision, the government may allow online platforms to establish a complete medical system involving writing prescriptions and the use of medical insurance. Internet plus medical care should be properly guided to solve the difficulties associated with seeing a doctor in China rather than disrupting the order of the medical sector. Online platforms can only provide convenience for people by developing in a healthy, orderly and legal fashion.
(This is an edited excerpt of an article published in Legal Daily on March 2)