Imee: Vat Exemptions To Reduce Medicine Prices Further

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The government can still do more to make medicine prices the cheapest possible, Senator Imee Marcos said, a day after President Duterte ordered a price ceiling on 133 medicines.

Marcos said that exempting the sale and importation of medicines from the value-added tax (VAT) could further reduce the maximum retail and wholesale prices of select medicines, which Executive Order No. 104 will subject to a review every six months.

Marcos added that the 56% average discount seen in the EO’s regulation of medicine prices could be larger because pharmaceutical companies themselves have said they could afford price reductions of up to 75%, before the EO was signed.

More than half of the P413 billion Filipinos spent on health services in 2018 went to pharmaceutical companies, Marcos said, citing Philippine Statistics Authority numbers.

Marcos added that Department of Health (DoH) estimates put the present cost of branded drugs at as much as 22 times higher than in other countries, especially in private hospitals and pharmacies.

Marcos’s campaign promise to make medicines cheaper is now a provision in Section 1 of Republic Act 11467, otherwise known as the sin tax law.

The said law adopts the VAT exemptions proposed by Marcos in Senate bills 218 and 219, which were put into effect last January for diabetes, high cholesterol, and hypertension medicines, and will apply in January 2023 for medicines to treat cancer, mental illness, tuberculosis, and kidney disease.

Amid the financial and logistical problems hounding the government’s Universal Health Care Program, Marcos said lowering the prices of medicine is the quickest way to help the sick.

“Matagal pa bago maisaayos at mapalawak ang PhilHealth, at kelan pa kaya mawawala ang katiwalian at expired meds sa bodega ng DoH? Pero kung maibaba pa natin ang presyo ng gamot, agad-agad tayo makakatulong sa mga may sakit,” Marcos said.

“Ngayong taon na magkakabisa ang Universal Health Care Law, kaya talagang kailangan na ng murang gamot. Now na!” dadag pa ni Marcos.