As fast growing e-pharmacies eat into the incomes of lakhs of small chemist outlets, nearly 850,000 of them will remain shut on 14 October to protest against the online sale of drugs.

The one-day nationwide strike called by the All India Organisation of Chemists and Druggists (AIOCD) comes after a government panel started its work on framing regulations for the online pharmacies.

Retail chemists say that e-pharmacies will "challenge their businesses" and result in abuse of medicines. They also contend that it will be "easier" to purchase medicines online many times with a single prescription.

"Our children are savvy to social media. If they put one prescription online, they will take a picture and send it to other companies to get medicines," Reuters quoted AIOCD president JS Shinde as saying.

Shinde said that an indefinite strike may be called if the government does not halt online sale of medicines.

However, medical shops in hospitals and 24-hour pharmacies will remain open.

While Apollo Hospitals Enterprise is looking to launch an online portal for selling drugs in India, Zigy and Sequoia Capital-backed 1 mg have already been running e-pharmacies.

Varun Gupta, head of medical affairs at 1 mg, said that the company sees about 60 million visitors a month on its website and its mobile app saw 3.5 million downloads in the past three years.

"We expect new regulations to give clarity for online players to exist," said Hemant Bhardwaj, chief executive at Zigy.

Apollo's Joint Managing Director Sangita Reddy said that they will begin selling drugs online after the government announces the new regulations.

"A huge database of medicines makes it a one-stop shop," said Thongsuanmung Vualnam, a New Delhi health consultant, who recently began shopping on e-pharmacies.