By Ma. Teresa Montemayor

Health Secretary Teodoro Herbosa (PNA file photo)

MANILA – More Filipinos may now benefit from more affordable medicines following the value-added tax (VAT) exemption of 21 medicines for cancer, diabetes, hypertension, kidney disease, mental illness, and tuberculosis.

On Tuesday, Bureau of Internal Revenue’s (BIR) Commissioner Romeo Lumagui Jr. announced that the specified drugs are now exempted from VAT.

Lumagui noted that the VAT exemption is under Revenue Memorandum Circular No. 17-2024.

“I welcomed that because these are the drugs that are needed by people who are really sick, so VAT exemption is very important in lowering the price of the medicine,” Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Teodoro Herbosa said in a media forum on Wednesday.

“Mas marami akong mabibigyan with the budget that legislation gives me so kung mura ang medicines because of removal of the VAT, malaking tulong yun (If medicines cheaper because of the removal of the VAT, that’s a big help. I can give [medicines] to more people with the budget that legislation gives me),” he added.

About PHP 1.7 billion was allocated for the DOH from the national budget this year.

Herbosa said cases and deaths due to cancer and tuberculosis happen when patients have limited access to medicines that help control these diseases.

The same goes for non-communicable diseases like diabetes and hypertension, he said.

“Kasi ‘yung mga mahihirap ay humihinto ng pag-inom kasi nga ang mahal ng gamot (The marginalized stop taking medicines because they are expensive). So, we want to make that medicine available also to our poorest of the Filipinos,” he added.

In 2023, the BIR exempted a total of 59 medicines from VAT to ease the financial burden of Filipinos taking medications to improve their health conditions and quality of life. These included “maintenance” drugs for diabetes, high cholesterol, and hypertension. (PNA)