Drugstore chains will be forbidden from selling prescription medicines on the internet, according to a draft regulation released by the China Food and Drug Administration.
Violators will receive fines of 5,000 to 20,000 yuan (0 to ,000), according to the draft, which was released on Tuesday. Public comment will be sought until Nov 30.
Drug sales online for nonprescription medicines will be scrutinized by food and drug authorities using standards as strict as those for offline sales, according to the draft. Producers of pharmaceuticals or wholesalers will not be able to sell medicines directly to individuals online.
Online sellers of nonprescription drugs will be held responsible for the quality and safety of the drugs they distribute and must ensure regulatory compliance in the transportation and storage of the drugs.
Online platforms will be required to confirm that sellers are legal drug producers, wholesalers or chain retailers, the draft said.
Platforms will also be required to inspect and supervise delivery service providers selected by drug sellers using the platforms to ensure that they meet standards, the draft said.
Websites, including online platforms, that sell drugs to individuals will not be allowed to publicize information on prescription drugs, otherwise they will receive fines of between 5,000 and 20,000 yuan, according to the draft.
In May 2014, the China FDA released a draft regulation on the supervision of the online drug business, allowing online drug sellers to sell prescription drugs if a prescription is given by a doctor. That regulation did not come into force.
Zhao Zhigang, a pharmacist at Beijing Tiantan Hospital, said banning the sale of prescription drugs online is the right way to protect people's health.
It is difficult to provide effective supervision of the drug trade online, which means that drugs sold online are more likely to be fake or substandard, he said, and "risks will appear if prescription drugs can be sold online, such as fake prescriptions".
Sun Zhongshi, a former researcher at the administration's Drug Evaluation Center said the draft regulation was in line with practices in most industrialized countries.
Irregularities involving the drug trade are common on many online pharmaceutical stores and e-commerce platforms, and people can get prescription drugs without a prescription at some stores and online, according to a report by National Business Daily.
Such irregularities occur because of a lack of supervision and the fact that many pharmacists and e-commerce platforms find it hard to verify the authenticity of electronic prescriptions, the report said.