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Impact of GST Rate on Life-Saving Drugs and Other Pharma

The Indian pharmaceutical industry is the principal supplier of generic drugs all over the world, with 80% of all AIDS drugs produced in India. The UN has provided licenses to six Indian pharmaceutical labs to make generic anti-AIDS medicine for all the developing nations. Indian pharmaceutical companies manufacture 20% of all generic drugs used around the world.

Current Tax Law on Pharmaceutical Products

The average VAT rate for most of the pharmaceutical products is around 5% and for the formulations is 9%. The excise duty charged on pharma products was 12.5%. To be fair though, the government provides relief on excise to pharmaceutical product manufacturers by introducing excise-free manufacturing zones.
Prior to the introduction of excise-free manufacturing zones, 40% of the pharmaceutical product manufacturers were located in Gujrat. Excise-free zones were a crucial step in providing relief to small manufacturers in remote places to be competitive in the national market. Manufacturers operating from excise-free manufacturing zones have to pay excise at the rate of 1.5% in comparison to the 12.5% from every other manufacturer of pharmaceutical products.

In most of the states, the VAT on the pharmaceutical products is charged on the maximum retail price and is charged at a single point. Therefore, the distribution channel does not pay any tax or file tax returns. Payment of timely taxes and filing 37 returns is going to be a daunting task for the distribution channel.

GST Rate on Pharmaceutical Products
NIL
5%
12%
Human blood and its components
Animal or human blood vaccines
All goods not specified elsewhere:
Medicines made by mixing two or more constituents for therapeutic or prophylactic uses.(including Ayurvedic medicines)
All types of contraceptives
Diagnostic kit for all types of hepatitis
Medicines made by mixing two or more products for therapeutic or prophylactic uses.
(including Ayurvedic medicines)
Cyclosporin
Wadding gauge, bandages, and similar articles
Oral Rehydration Salts
Forms or packing for retail sale regarding surgical, dental or veterinary purposes
Desferrioxamine Injection or Deferiprone
Pharmaceutical goods specified such as sterile laminaria, dental adhesion barriers etc.
Medicines (including veterinary medicines) used in bio-chemichal systems and not bearing any brand name
Drugs or medicines specified in the list 3 or 4 of notification 12/2012- central excise
Formulations manufactured from bulk drugs listed in the list 1 of notification 12/2012 -central excise


Impact of GST Rate on Pharmaceutical Industry

Most of the drugs mentioned under the 5% bracket are used to cure malaria, HIV-AIDS, tuberculosis, and diabetes which were previously charged VAT around 4%. Nicotine polacrilex gum is the only pharmaceutical product to be charged at the rate of 18%. Cipla, the brand which produces nicotine gums, will probably be impacted from the rate fixed at 18%.
No clarification has been provided by the government on the issue of manufacturers operating in excise-free manufacturing zones paying more tax under GST. Most of these manufacturers are competitive in the pharmaceutical industry is due to the excise benefit as they are situated in remote places.
Earlier, Ayurvedic drugs or medicines were charged an average VAT of 4% and excise of 1.5% due to the excise free manufacturing zone benefit. Under GST, Ayurvedic medicines could get costlier as they would be taxed at the rate of 12%.
Since the distribution channel was not involved in the payment of tax and filing tax returns, they will now need to get registered and file the minimum 37 returns annually as required under GST. A lot of the times, medicines are provided without bills in India. GST would curb such practices as providing medicine without the bill would not be beneficial for anyone in the distribution chain.
The government needs to still provide clarification on the inclusion of the current benefit for the manufacturers under excise for operating from the excise free manufacturing zones. The pharmaceutical industry is also asking for more information on the implementation of GST on the MRP of pharmaceutical products.