Srinagar: With the recent introduction of Goods and Services Tax (GST) in the state of Jammu and Kashmir (JK), Doctors Association Kashmir (DAK) today has sought GST exemption on medicines that would bring huge relief to patients.
President DAK Dr Nisar ul Hassan in a statement said that GST exemption would keep medicines within the reach of poor.
The tax waiver would help in reducing medicine prices and make drugs affordable to poor patients and save lives, he said.
GST is the single tax on the supply of goods and services that has replaced the indirect taxes levied by the central and state governments.
“The government has levied 12 percent GST on all drugs except essential ones which are in 5 percent bracket, while food protein medicines have an 18 percent tax. In the past, tax on medicines was 5%, 9% and 17%, but now it is hiked to 5%, 12%, 18% and 28% with 12% slab on most of the drugs. Only human blood and its components and contraceptives have been exempted from GST, Dr. Nisar said.
With the implementation of GST, the prices of majority of essential drugs will increase by 2.29%, he added.
“Until now, life-saving drugs that treat diseases like Malaria, HIV-AIDS, Tuberculosis and Diabetes had been exempted from excise duties and only a few states charged 5% tax on them, but GST has now slotted them compulsorily under the 5% slab.”
High prices on medicines are major barriers to the use of drugs.
In JK, 21.63% population, comprising of 24.21 lakh people do not have access to medicines due to lack of purchasing power.
Majority of cancer patients die for want of treatment because they cannot afford costly anti-cancer drugs.
Also, the high cost of medicines contributes to nonadherence of long term essential therapies for patients with diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular ailments.