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Marcos says VAT exemptions to reduce medicine prices

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The government can still do more to make medicine prices the cheapest possible, Senator Imee Marcos said on Wednesday.

She made the remark a day after President Duterte ordered a price ceiling on 133 medicines through Executive Order No. 104.

Marcos said 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 EO 104 will subject to a review every six months.

She said the 56 percent 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 percent, before the EO was signed.

Citing Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) data, Marcos said more than half of the P413 billion Filipinos spent on health services in 2018 went to pharmaceutical companies.

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

Marcos said that her campaign promise to make medicines cheaper is now a provision in Section 1 of Republic Act 11467, or 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?” she asked.

“Pero kung maibaba pa natin ang presyo ng gamot, agad-agad tayo makakatulong sa mga may sakit,” Marcos said.

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