Councilor presses lifting VAT of life-saving drugs

Davao City Councilor Mary Joselle Villafuerte is calling the help of her colleagues in urging the national government to lift the Value Added Tax (VAT) on all lifesaving and essential medicines.

Dr. Villafuerte, Committee on Health chairman, said on Tuesday that VAT exemptions on diabetes, high cholesterol and hypertension medicines are not enough.

“Why lift only the VAT on the medicines mentioned, why not lift all the VAT on all lifesaving and essential medicines?,” she said in a privilege speech during the regular session at the Sanggunian Panlungsod.

Villafuerte said that essential medicines, as defined by the World Health Organization (WHO), are medicines that “satisfy the priority health care needs of the population”. She said that these are the medications to which people should have access at all times in sufficient amounts.

The councilor, who is a physician by profession, said that government should provide affordable maintenance medicine to people, and save more lives.

“We can urge the national government tax experts to study the WHO Health Action International Project on Medicine Prices,” Villafuerte said.

The project is an innovative standardized survey methodology for measuring medicine prices, availability, affordability and price components.

The VAT exemption on some medical drugs is mandated by the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) law, effective January 1 this year.

Other tax schemes were pushed, such as increasing tax collection on tobacco product and sugar producing beverages.

The Department of Health (DOH) is also pushing for the VAT exemption on cancer medications.

Earlier this week, Villafuerte got reports that some pharmacies in Davao City are not complying with the Value-Added Tax (VAT) exemption on the mentioned drugs.

She then discovered that these pharmacies are still waiting for the circular memo coming from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in Manila.