21 drugs for common ailments now VAT-free | Inquirer News

21 drugs for common ailments now VAT-free

/ 05:44 AM February 01, 2024

MORE AFFORDABLE Some 21 medications for cancer and other common illnesses will become cheaper after the Bureau of Internal Revenue made these VAT-exempt. —FILE PHOTO

MORE AFFORDABLE | Some 21 medications for cancer and other common illnesses will become cheaper after the Bureau of Internal Revenue made these VAT-exempt. (FILE PHOTO)

MANILA, Philippines — Health Secretary Teodoro Herbosa on Wednesday welcomed a Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) memorandum circular that exempted from the 12-percent value-added tax (VAT) a total of 21 medicines used to treat various illnesses, some of these life-threatening, as this would make them more accessible to the public.

The BIR memorandum covered medications for diseases such as cancer, diabetes, hypertension, kidney disease, high cholesterol, tuberculosis, and mental illness.


According to BIR Commissioner Romeo Lumagui Jr., this was in response to a letter from the Food and Drug Administration and Department of Health (DOH) endorsing an updated list of medicines that should be VAT-exempt.


Based on their generic names, these are panitumumab and fulvestrant for cancer; teneligiptin, sitagliptin and metformin hydrochloride for diabetes; atorvastatin calcium and atorvastatin + fenofibrate for high cholesterol; tolvaptan, mannitol, alpha ketoanalogues with essential amino acids for kidney disease; desvenlafaxine for mental illness; and bedaquiline (as fumarate) and isoniazid with pyridoxine hydrochloride for tuberculosis.

“These are drugs needed by people who are sick. So, it is very important that they get VAT exemptions, which will lower the prices of these medicines,” Herbosa told reporters during a chance interview in Manila.

More beneficiaries

He added that he also wants the medications to be made available in primary care, saying that since these would become more affordable, the DOH would be able to give them to more people in need.

According to Herbosa, the medications in the BIR memo were among the “modern ways” to control illnesses that were prevalent among many Filipinos. “That is why I prioritized [in the letter] hypertension and diabetes—two of the most common noncommunicable diseases,” he said.

The recommendation to make the medicines VAT-exempt was also aimed at making these more affordable to the poor who are sometimes left with no choice but to stop taking their prescribed medication because of the lack of money.

“Even I take medications for hypertension and [these are] quite expensive. So I wonder how ordinary people [fare] and so we want to make that medicine available also to the poorest Filipinos,” Herbosa said.


He added that the DOH would soon reach out to the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. for a plan to distribute the new VAT-exempt medications for free.

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TAGS: Bureau of Internal Revenue, common medicines, Department of Health, Teodoro Herbosa, value-added tax

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