Medicine tablets Tayna/Flickr

Stop Taxing the Sick

The debate over access to affordable medicines in poor countries frequently overlooks a critical issue: Governments in these countries routinely slap tariffs and other taxes on pharmaceutical imports. While these measures tend to be modest revenue generators, they drive up medicine prices, harming many who need them most.

WASHINGTON, DC – The debate over access to affordable medicines in emerging and developing countries frequently overlooks a critical issue: Governments in these countries routinely slap tariffs and other taxes on vitally important drugs. While these measures tend to be modest revenue generators, they make the affected medicines more expensive, which can put them out of reach for many who need them most.

Like developed countries, emerging and developing countries import some – if not all – of their medicines, the cost of which is mainly covered by the patients themselves, given these countries’ lack of health insurance. Indians, for example, pay 70% of their health-care expenses out of their own pockets. With tariffs and other taxes increasing drug costs by as much as two-thirds in some areas, even the most basic generic drugs become unaffordable for the poorest people. As one research report on Delhi’s medicine market concluded, such levies are essentially a “tax on the sick” which the government could easily remove.

The story is similar in many emerging markets. According to a 2012 study by the World Trade Organization, Argentina, Brazil, India, and Russia impose tariffs of around 10% on imported medicines, while Algeria and Rwanda, for example, maintain a 15% rate. The tariff in Djibouti is 26%. As the report noted, it is difficult to understand why small countries maintain high tariffs on health products – a move that serves only to drive up domestic prices.

To continue reading, please log in or enter your email address.

To access our archive, please log in or register now and read two articles from our archive every month for free. For unlimited access to our archive, as well as to the unrivaled analysis of PS On Point, subscribe now.

required

By proceeding, you agree to our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy, which describes the personal data we collect and how we use it.

Log in

http://prosyn.org/7kJ9TAw;

Cookies and Privacy

We use cookies to improve your experience on our website. To find out more, read our updated cookie policy and privacy policy.