Mumbai: The Maharashtra Medical Council (MMC) has, in a new circular, allowed doctors to prescribe medicines to their 'regular' patients for minor ailments online.

However, city psychiatrists have claimed that this will not work without the approval of the Food and Drugs Authority (FDA) and they will be unable to continue caring for patients under psychiatric treatment.

The ongoing statewide lockdown means hundreds of patients are unable to visit doctors for consultation.

As per MMC rules, providing online prescriptions to patients is illegal. But taking note of the crisis situation, the MMC on Monday amended the rules for the time being. However, terms and conditions apply. “Now, doctors can prescribe medicines to their patients through social media platforms.

But there are a few restrictions. Doctors can only prescribe medicines online for minor ailments or routine follow-ups. Also, physicians need to know the medical history of the patient beforehand,” said Dr Shivkumar Utture, chairman of the MMC.

Further, the prescription should be on the physician's official letterhead, with their signature and registration number. But psychiatrists in the city are not satisfied with this change in rules, as this does not include medicines used in psychiatric treatment, as often, these drugs fall under the purview of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act and in the category of Schedule X drugs.

“These drugs are often abused, so there are many restrictions on prescribing them. But this is an emergency situation and the FDA needs to relax the rules for at least two months, so that psychiatric patients can buy medicines either using old prescriptions or by showing soft copies of new prescriptions,” said psychiatrist Dr Harish Shetty, who has written a letter to the Union Health Ministry on the subject.

At present, when a patient goes to buy psychiatric medicines, the pharmacist stamps the prescription after providing the prescribed amount of drugs. So the patient cannot buy the same drugs using the old prescription.

“The current situation is already causing many patients to have panic attacks, sadness and anxiety. If they don’t take their medicines regularly, there is a chance their condition will deteriorate,” he added. Also, these rules will not get implemented, as medical shops come under the FDA.

“This order to sell medicines to patients based on online prescriptions must come from the FDA. The MMC has no control over pharmacists,” Dr Shetty pointed out.. When contacted, the state's public health minister Rajesh Tope said, “I will look into the matter.”

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