Tokyo government panel agrees to liberalize online drug sales

Kyodo

The government’s Regulatory Reform Council said Friday it will seek to fully liberalize online sales of nonprescription drugs.

The proposal, which was conveyed to the health ministry, comes at a time when officials of the ministry are considering new rules for online drug sales after the Supreme Court ruled in January in favor of two Internet retailers who argued a ministry ordinance banning such sales is illegal.

The council’s latest move is apparently aimed at facilitating talks by health ministry officials toward fully liberalizing online drug sales, according to health issue experts.

The council said in its latest decision that it would seek the liberalization of such sales to “widen choices for consumers who are unable to buy nonprescription drugs over the counter.”

It also said the ban on such sales, including sales of “category 1″ drugs with high risks of side effects, should be lifted in light of the top court’s ruling, while proposing to adequately ensure drug safety based on the pharmaceutical industry’s independent guidelines.

“I believe there are people who want to buy (nonprescription drugs) in a more convenient manner if their safety is ensured,” said council chief Motoyuki Oka, senior advisor for trading house Sumitomo Corp.