Tax-free cancer drugs

January 17, 2019

Debt and taxes are the terrible twins of certainty in this world.

This we can all concede without much reservation or equivocation.

But taxing treatments or medications that would delay or prevent death should be reconsidered for all obvious moral and compelling reasons.

And so we agree with and support the Department of Health in calling for tax exemption for cancer treatments.

The DoH on Wednesday said it is pushing for the exemption from value-added tax (VAT) of medications for cancer patients.

DoH Undersecretary Eric Domingo said there is now a "strong clamor" from non-government organizations (NGOs) for VAT exemption of cancer medications following the removal of tax for diabetes, hypertension, and high cholesterol medicines.

"We are discussing with an inter-agency working group yung gamot para sa cancer (the VAT exemption of medicines for cancer). Ito talaga yung (This is really where) we have  very strong patient groups and mga NGOs that are working with us,” Domingo said in a press briefing in Malacañang.

“Tinitignan namin paano natin masasama itong (We are looking at options on how we can include in the exemption these) cancer medicines," he added.

Earlier, the Department of Finance (DoF) announced the exemption from VAT of medicines for diabetes, hypertension, and high cholesterol, in line with the implementation of Republic Act 10963, popularly known as Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) law.

Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Director-General Nela Charade Puno said the government will make sure that pharmacies will comply with the ‘VAT-exempt’ medicines.

Puno said cheaper medicines will curb the selling of counterfeit drugs.

"Food and Drug Administration will be very, very active dito sa ating (in) monitoring and ensuring na ang implementasyon ng (that the implementation of) VAT exempt ay hindi lang po para bumaba lang ang presyo, para rin po (will not only lower the prices of medicines, but also) to ensure na (the) quality iyong gamot na binibili po ninyo (of the medicines you buy)," she said.

Domingo advised the public to always check the 'VAT-exempt' mark in the official receipt once they buy their medicines.

"Patients with prescriptions for these medicines may avail of the VAT exemption; manufacturers, distributors or wholesalers or retailers may also avail of the VAT exemption on their sales of drugs provided that they are already in the final consumable form — iyon pong tableta na (those already in tablet form)," he said.

DoF Assistant Secretary Tony Lambino said a healthy population is key to having a strong economy.

"Alam natin na maraming mga Pilipino ang naglalaan ng malaking bahagi ng kanilang budget para sa mga maintenance na gamot para sa mga karamdamang ito (We know that many Filipinos allocate a large chunk of their budget for maintenance medicines for the said diseases)," he said.