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Drug License – Application, Documents, Registration, & Forms

Updated on :  

08 min read.

Ensuring everyone has equal and fair access to drugs and medicine is the primary concern of any government. But the right to manufacture and sell drugs and medicines has to be given cautiously. Hence the government has stringent rules for granting licenses for the manufacturing and selling of drugs and medicine. The Act that governs the end to end process from manufacture to the sale of drugs in India is the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940.

Meaning of Drugs

Section 3(b) of the Drugs and Cosmetics Act,1940 defines “drug” to include all medicines and devices for the use of human beings or animals internally or externally, and all substances planned to be used for or in the diagnosis, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of any disorder or disease in animals or human beings, including preparations applied on the human body for the purpose of repelling insects like mosquitoes; it also includes all substances that can be used for the destruction of insects and all components of a drug – like empty gelatin capsules. The definition was amended in 1964, to include Ayurvedic and Unani Drugs.

Purpose of Drug Licence

The access to medicines and drugs must be restricted and regulated to ensure that such goods are not abused or misused by individuals. Thus, all pharmacists, wholesalers, retailers, manufacturers, sellers, dealers and importers of drugs, cosmetics, ayurvedic, Siddha and Unani drugs have to mandatorily obtain drug license under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940.

The purpose of the drug license is to grant permission to allow enterprises or individuals to engage in businesses related to drugs and cosmetics. No enterprise or individual can operate a business dealing in drugs, medicines or cosmetics without obtaining a drug license in India.

The Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940 and the Drugs and Cosmetics Rules, 1945, help the government regulate and monitor the quality of drugs sold in India. The government exercises control over drugs from the raw material stage during manufacture, sale, distribution and till it is sold on to a patient or consumer by a pharmacist in a retail pharmacy, hospital or dispensary.

The government also exercises control in the aspects related to import and export of medicines, sale of the drug to a minor, consumption of schedule H & X drugs, etc., that requires thorough monitoring and cautious execution. The drug license is granted by the drug controlling authority under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940.

Types of Drug License

Looking at the definition of “drug”, the pharmaceutical business in India requires the following types of licenses:

  • Manufacturing License– License issued to a business that manufactures drugs inclusive of allopathic/homoeopathy medicines.
  • Sale License – License issued for the sale of drugs. It has the following bifurcations: – Wholesale Drug License – Retail Drug License
    • Wholesale License – A drug wholesaler must obtain a wholesale licence. Wholesale means the sale of the drug to a person/retailer to further sell it.
    • Retail License – A retail license is required for the retail sale of drugs. A retail sale means the sale of drugs or cosmetics for the consumption of the end consumer. Retailers can sell it to a dispensary, hospital, educational, medical, or research institute. Retailers engaged in pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, stand-alone pharmacists, ayurvedic shops, etc need this license.
  • Loan License – License issued to a business that does not own the manufacturing unit but uses the manufacturing facilities of another licensee.
  • Import License – License is issued to any dealer importing the products for the manufacturing of drugs or is engaged in the business of importing drugs in India.
  • Multi-Drug License – License issued to businesses that own pharmacies in multiple states with the same name.

Drug Controlling Authority or Regulatory Authority

The drug controlling authority as known as the drugs controller specified under the Drugs and Cosmetic Act is responsible to issue different drug licences. The drug controlling authorities (licensing authorities) are as follows:

  • State Drugs Standard Control Organisation (SDSCO) – Issues licenses for the sales, distribution, and manufacture of drugs regulated by the state authorities.
  • Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO) – Responsible for approving and issuing licenses for the newly made drugs and clinical trials of drugs. It also controls the quality of the imported drugs and coordinates with the SDSCO.
  • State Drug Controlling Authority with approval by the Central License Approving Authority – Issues licenses for establishing blood banks and their components and products like Vaccines, Sera, etc.
  • Department of Ayush – Issues licenses for ayurvedic, Unani, Siddha, homoeopathic and herbal products for cosmetic and medical use.

Prerequisites For Obtaining a License

  • Pharmacist/ Competent Individual: The pharmacist must be qualified in the case of a retail business. In the case of a wholesale business, the individual must be a graduate with 1-year experience or an undergraduate with 4 years of experience.
  • Space Requirement: The other important requirement is space, that is the area of the pharmacy/unit. For both wholesale and retail licenses the area of the pharmacy/unit should be 15 square meters. In the case of a retail and medical shop, it should be 10 square meters. The clear height of the sales premises shall be as per the guidelines laid down under the National Building Code of India, 2005.
  • Storage Facility: The other important requirement is storage facility since some drugs require to be stored in low temperatures, refrigerators and air conditioners are a must.
  • Technical Staff: The retail pharmacy staff must be experienced with in-depth knowledge. The staff of the wholesale pharmacy must be a graduate with a minimum of 1-year experience or an undergraduate having four years of experience.

Application for a Drug License

The drug controlling authority or the regulatory authority is responsible for issuing the drug license. The applicant must apply to the respective drug controlling authority based on the license he/she requires as each drug controlling authority is responsible to issue different licenses (as stated above). The following is the process for obtaining the drug license:

Visit the respective drug controlling authority website

The applicant must visit the respective drug controlling authority (SDSCO, CDSCO or Ayush) depending on the type of license he/she is applying for since each drug controlling authority is responsible for the issue of different types of drug licenses. 

Filing of application

The applicant must file the drug license application online on the respective drug controlling authority website. The applicant must fill all the details asked in the application form.

Upload documents

After filling in the details on the application form, the next step is to upload the documents and submit the form along with the applicable fees. The applicant must keep all the documents updated before filing the application.

Visit by drug inspector

After receiving the application form, the drug Inspector will personally visit the company premises, shop or the drugstore for the verification of documents and correctness of facts stated in the application.

Grant of the drug license

After inspection and verification by the drug inspector, the drugs controller will issue the drug license.

List of Essential Documents For Obtaining a License

The documents essential for obtaining a sale license are:

  • Constitution of the entity, Memorandum of Association (MOA), Articles of Association (AOA) for a company, partnership deed, LLP agreement in case of partnership and LLP.
  • ID proof of partner/director/proprietor.
  • Documents related to premises – Copy of ownership documents of property or rental agreement and NOC (No Objection Certificate) from the owner of the rented premises as the case may be.
  • Site plan and key plan of the premises.
  • Copy of Board resolution permitting obtaining of a license.
  • Proof of availability of storage space as cold storage, refrigerator, etc.
  • Copy of challan as proof of depositing fee.
  • Affidavit regarding non-conviction of proprietor/partner/director and the firm.
  • The affidavit from the registered pharmacist/competent person.
  • Cover letter with name and designation of the applicant
  • Declaration form in a prescribed format
  • Applicant’s qualification certificate
  • For a pharmacist at a retail sale:
    • Proof of qualification
    • Registration of local pharmacy council
    • Appointment letter
  • For a pharmacist at a wholesale sale:
    • Proof of qualification
    • Experience certificate
    • Appointment letter

List of Application Forms

Sr. NoForm NoPurpose
1Form 19Application for grant or renewal of a license to sell, stock, exhibit or offer for sale, or distribute drugs apart from those specified in Schedule X.
2Form 19AApplication for granting or renewing a restricted license to sell, stock, exhibit or offer for sale, or distribute drugs by retail via dealers who don’t engage the service of a registered pharmacist.
3Form 19BApplication for license to sell, stock or exhibit or offer for sale, or distribute Homoeopathic Medicines.
4Form 19CApplication for grant or renewal of a [license to sell, stock, exhibit or offer for sale, or distribute] drugs specified in Schedule X.
5Form 20Application for licence to sell, stock or exhibit or offer for sale, or distribute drugs by retail other than those specified in [Schedules C, C(1) and X].
6Form 20AApplication for restricted licence to sell, stock or exhibit or offer for sale, or distribute] drugs by retail other than those specified in [Schedules C, C (1) and X] for dealers who do not engage the services of a registered pharmacist.
7Form 20B Application for licence to sell, stock or exhibit or offer for sale, or distribute by wholesale, drugs other than those specified in [Schedules C, C(I) and X].
8Form 20CApplication for licence to sell, stock or exhibit or offer for sale, or distribute Homoeopathic medicines by retail.
9Form 20DApplication for licence to sell, stock or exhibit or offer for sale, or distribute Homoeopathic medicines by wholesale.
10Form 20EApplication for certificate of renewal of Licence to sell, stock or exhibit or offer for sale, or distribute Homoeopathic medicines.
11Form 20FApplication for licence to sell, stock or exhibit for sale or distribute by retail drugs specified in Schedule X.
12Form 20GApplication for licence to sell, stock or exhibit or offer for sale, or distribute by wholesale drugs specified in Schedule X.
13Form 21CApplication for certificate of renewal of licence to sell, stock or exhibit or offer for sale, or distribute drugs.
14Form 24AApplication for either the grant of a loan license or renewal of a loan license to manufacture for sale or distribution of drugs other than those specified in Schedule C, C (1) and X.
15Form 24BApplication for grant or renewal of a licensee to repack for sale or distribution of drugs, being drugs other than those specified in Schedule C and C (1) excluding those specified in Schedule X.
16Form 24CApplication for the grant or renewal of a license to manufacture for sale [or for distribution] of Homoeopathic medicines or a license to manufacture potentized preparations from back potencies by licensees holding a license in Form 20-C
17Form 24DApplication for the grant / renewal of a licence to manufacture for sale of Ayurvedic/ Siddha or Unani drugs
18Form 24EApplication for grant or renewal of a loan licence to manufacture for sale Ayurvedic (including Siddha) or Unani Drugs
19Form 24FApplication for grant or renewal of a license to manufacture for sale or for distribution of drugs specified in Schedule X and not specified in Schedule C and C(1).
20Form 27Application for grant or renewal of a license to manufacture for sale or for distribution of drugs specified in Schedule C and C (1) excluding those specified in part XB and Schedule X

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the types of drug businesses that require a drug license?

All types of drugs or cosmetics businesses that fall under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940, are required to obtain a drug license before starting/establishing a drug or cosmetics business. The Drugs and Cosmetics Act covers all drugs businesses, including allopathic, homoeopathic, ayurvedic, Siddha or Unani drugs. 

What are the drugs included under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940?

The drugs included under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act are as follows:

  • All medicines for external or internal use of animals or human beings and all substances intended to be used for or in the treatment, diagnosis, prevention, or of any disease or disorder in animals or human beings, including preparations applied on the human body for repelling insects like mosquitoes.
  • Substances (other than food) intended to affect the function or structure of the human body or intended to be used to destroy insects that cause disease in human beings or animals, as may be specified by the Central Government by notification in the Official Gazette. 
  • All substances intended for use as components of a drug, including empty gelatin capsules.
  • Such devices intended for external or internal use in the treatment, diagnosis, prevention, or mitigation of disorder or disease in animals or human beings, as may be specified by the Central Government by notification in the Official Gazette.
Is the drug license and a pharmaceutical business license the same? 

Yes. The drug license is also known as a pharmaceutical license. A drug license is required for all businesses involved in distributing pharmaceutical and medicines supplements. 

I have a drug license in Bangalore. Do I need to obtain another drug license to sell my drugs in Chennai?

Yes. When a drug business has an operating unit in two or more states, it has to obtain a drug license separately for each state in which it carries the business. The drug license registration is location-specific. Thus, if the drugs are sold or stocked for sale and distribution at more than one place, the application should be made to every state, and a license will be issued regarding each place except for migrant vendors.

What is the validity of a drug license?

A drug licence is valid for five years unless cancelled and suspended by the drug department.  It can be renewed before its expiration period by logging into the respective drug controlling website, entering the drug licence number, filling up the renewal application and submitting the document along with the fee for the issue of renewal of the drug license. The drugs controller will issue a renewed drug license.

What happens to the drug licence if there is a change in premises?

When there is a change in premises, the drug license for the old premises has to be surrendered, and the drug business owner has to apply for a new licence for the new premises. 

Do importers of drugs need a wholesale license?

Yes, the importers of a drug(s) must obtain both an import license and a wholesale licence to sell imported drugs within India.

What are the qualifications required for obtaining a drug license?

The qualification or eligibility of a competent person for retail and wholesale drug license, technical staff of a company dealing in drug or pharmacist are as follows:

  • For retail drug license:
    • B Pharma/DPharma degree holder
    • Registration with State Pharmacy Council
    • No prior experience is required
  • For Wholesale drug license:
    • B Pharma/DPharma degree holder 
    • Registered with State Pharmacy Council 
    • A graduate with one year of experience of dealing in drugs or an undergraduate having four years experience of dealing in drugs
What is an FDA license?

A Food and Drug Administration (FDA) license is a license obtained under the  Federal Food and Drugs Act. The Food, Drug and Cosmetic Administration (FDA), established in 1906, is a government agency under the Federal Food, Drugs and Cosmetic Act for consumer protection. The FDA license or certification is mandatory for placing food, drug, cosmetics and medical products in the USA.

How can I get a drug license in India?

The following is the procedure to get a drug license in India:

  • The applicant can apply for the drug license online on the respective drug controlling authority or regulating authority website based on the type of license required.
  • The applicant can also download the license forms from the drug controlling authority website and submit the filled application to the officer of the drug controlling authority.
  • The required documents must be submitted or uploaded to the drug controlling authority along with the licensing application.
  • Once the application form is submitted, all the documents are marked for inspection.
  • An inspector will visit the pharmaceutical shop or company premises for the final verification.
  • After the verification, the drugs controller issues the drug license.
How do I get my CDSCO license?

The registration on the CDSCO portal is entirely online. The steps for obtaining registration under the CDSCO portal are as follows:

  • Visit the CDSCO registration portal and click on the ‘Login/Sign Up’ button.
  • Click on the ‘Sign Up Here’ option to apply for registration. Select the ‘Registration Purpose’ from the options in the drop-down box and click on ‘Submit’.
  • The ‘Applicant Registration’ page opens. Fill the details on the application form and click on the ‘Submit’ button.
  • A confirmation link will be sent to the registered email id to verify the registration. Click on the link sent to the email to activate the account on the CDSCO portal.
  • Once the confirmation link is clicked, the application for registration will be sent to the concerned authority (CDSCO Officials) for approval.
  • After the application is approved, an email of the approval will be sent to the registered email id. The registration is complete upon receipt of the approval email.

Click here for more information on CDSCO Online Registration.

How can I get a wholesale drug license in India?

The application process for applying for a wholesale license is as follows:

  • Go to the respective state’s drug controlling authority website.
  • Download or fill the application form for a drug license online on the drug controlling authority website.
  • Upload or submit the required documents along with the application form and pay the required fees. 
  • An inspector will visit the premises or shop and verify all the documents and the correctness of the filled data.
  • After the verification, the drugs controller issues the drug license.
How can I verify my drug license number in India?

Drug license verification can be done online through the respective state’s drug authority website. You need to enter the unique drug license number to verify the details of the drug license on the website.

Who can get a drug license in India?

The following persons can apply for a drug license in India:

  • Any registered pharmacist under the State Pharmacy Council.
  • A graduate with a minimum of one year experience in drugs sales and marketing in a reputed pharmacy.
  • An individual with four years of experience in pharma marketing and has passed S.S.L.C.
  • A person approved by the department of drug control to conduct drug business in India.
What is the cost of a drug license in India?

The application fees for obtaining a license vary from Rs.1,500 to 500 depending on the type of application. However, there may be additional charges that the applicant needs to pay for obtaining lab tests, tests or analysis by the Central Drugs Laboratories or State Drugs Laboratories or test or analysis by the Pharmacopoeial Laboratory for Indian Medicine (PLIM) or the government analyst for obtaining the license. The Drugs and Cosmetics Rules, 1945 prescribes the fees for every license application and different tests for different products.

Disclaimer: The materials provided herein are solely for information purposes. No attorney-client relationship is created when you access or use the site or the materials. The information presented on this site does not constitute legal or professional advice and should not be relied upon for such purposes or used as a substitute for legal advice from an attorney licensed in your state.

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