WHEN the Goods and Services Tax (GST) was proposed, calls were made to ensure medicines were not taxed.
And the Malaysian Pharmaceutical Society (MPS) maintains a similar stand now, hoping the government will waive the Sales and Services Tax (SST) for all medicines.
In a June 2 statement, the society’s president Amrahi Buang said: “In 2016, GST was zero-rated for all controlled medicines. We were in the process of petitioning for zero-rated OTC (over-the-counter) medicines when the current (Pakatan Harapan) administration came into power and zero-rated GST across the board.”
“MPS will now propose SST for all medicines be waived to ensure the financial burden due to out-of-pocket expenses is reduced for Malaysians.”
The GST was introduced by Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s administration in 2015. An estimated RM45 billion was collected annually.
Following Barisan Nasional’s defeat in the 14th general election on May 9, Pakatan Harapan took over Putrajaya and abolished GST since June 1. The SST could be implemented as early as September, according to Ong Kian Ming, the special officer to Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng.
Pricey medication in Malaysia has been a subject of debate for years. The ageing population and increased demand for healthcare are among the reasons for the escalating prices of drugs worldwide.
Several jurisdictions in the United States see OTC medicine exempted from taxes. They include Maryland, New Jersey and New York.
Consumers Association of Penang president S.M. Mohamed Idris had last year urged the government to control the prices of medicines to protect the poor, promote an equitable health system and achieve better health outcomes.
In addition, MPS said the government should include various stakeholders, including civil society organisations, in the policy-making and legislative drafting processes, be impartial towards all professional organisations and must review the health system, among others.