Legal regulation of online pharmacies (medical marketplaces)


  1. Legal regulation of online pharmacies: general information
  2. Nuances of distance selling medicines
  3. What innovations have been introduced?

Legal regulation of online pharmacies (medical marketplaces) 

In recent years, a considerable number of online pharmacies have appeared in the Russian Federation. Such trading platforms are otherwise called medical marketplaces. As statistics show, the sale of medical products via the Internet is a global trend. In 2018 alone, the number of orders from Russian online pharmacies grew by 78%. This has a positive effect on the development of the pharmacy business. Consumers note the convenience of online shopping, as medicines and related products can be ordered at any time from home. This is especially important for the elderly, seriously ill, single mothers and other categories of patients who, due to circumstances or for health reasons, cannot visit the pharmacy.

For traditional pharmacy chains, this phenomenon means increased competition and the need to develop, introduce new services that could attract customers.

The only obstacle preventing the pharmacy business from completely moving to the online format is legal regulation.

Nuances of distance selling medicines 

There is a lot of controversy regarding the organization of online trade in medicines and medical products. They relate to the quality of products and the safety of the remote sales format for buyers. First of all, we are talking about preventing low quality and counterfeit drugs from entering the market. Many pharmaceutical brands oppose the sale of their products through mobile pharmacies and the Internet. According to company representatives, remote services increase the risks of purchasing a fake medicine that can harm health. Some representatives of the Ministry of Health also agree with this statement.

Medicines are too specific a commodity. They must be properly stored and transported, and buyers must have access to professional advice on the use of medicines.

Also controversial are the issues of the assortment of online pharmacies. This primarily concerns potent prescription drugs, painkillers and narcotics. These medications should only be taken as directed by a physician. When buying a product in a regular pharmacy, a pharmaceutical worker makes a mark on the prescription or takes it from the patient: it all depends on the registration form of the prescription.

If we are talking about the delivery of goods from an online pharmacy, then ordinary couriers are engaged in this, that is, people without specialized education. They cannot properly advise the patient and make notes on the prescription. 

What innovations have been introduced? 

In order to legally regulate the activities of Internet pharmacies, a new Federal Law was developed and signed. The changes entered into force on April 12, 2019, and on May 16, 2020, some innovations were made to the decree.

To sell drugs online, a company must meet a number of requirements:

  1. Only organizations that are officially engaged in pharmaceutical activities and have the necessary permits can trade in medicines.
  2. The company must have 10 or more stationary points of sale of drugs and medical products.
  3. An Internet pharmacy should have premises for storing goods, a website through which you can order products, and its own courier service.

The fact that the company has a large retail network to obtain a license to sell drugs online has caused bewilderment and outrage among industry representatives. According to the management of the companies, the quality of service and the safety of products in the assortment of an Internet pharmacy are in no way related to the number of stationary pharmacy points owned by it. Due to innovations, only large chains can remotely sell medical products, and for small firms, entry to the market is closed, which is a kind of discrimination. In fact, this leads to the emergence of a monopoly on the sale of drugs on the Internet.

The government has its own arguments in favor of such a decision. According to the statistics of Roszdravnadzor, it is small pharmacy chains that most often violate the requirements established by law for the storage and sale of drugs, while large sellers organize their work at a higher level.

Representatives of the legislative bodies and the Ministry of Health emphasize that the most important thing in this case is to protect the rights of consumers who want to purchase high-quality and safe medical products.

The specialists of the law firm A4 Law Firm regularly monitor the changes that are taking place in this industry, and are ready to help your business with the registration of permits for online drug trade.


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