pharmaceutical tariffs

New study: More medicines have their price raised by import duties

pharmaceutical tariffsCountries need to commit to abolishing import tariffs on drugs

Geneva, September 29, 2015A new study from Geneva Network has found that the global volume of trade in medicines that have their price increased by tariffs is growing at 21% per year.

This means more patients in countries such as India, Brazil, Pakistan and Russia have to pay more for medicines, as a result of government import duties.

The study, called “Pharmaceutical tariffs, trade flows and emerging economies” is launched by Geneva Network today at the World Trade Organization Public Forum in Geneva.

“Tariffs on medicines are a regressive form of taxation, as they take a higher proportion of income from the poor than they do for those higher up the income scale,” said study co-author Nilanjan Banik. “If the goal is to make medicines more affordable for those who need to buy them then Governments should abolish all tariffs on medicines.”

The study also finds that a number of countries impose average tariffs on medicines of over 8 per cent. These include the Russian Federation (10.2%), India (10%), Uruguay (9.9%), Argentina (9.8%), Brazil (9.8%) and Thailand (9.3%).

Nepal has the highest tariffs on medicines in the world, standing at 14.6% on average.

The vast majority of high-income countries and many of the poorest countries do not levy tariffs on pharmaceuticals.

Many countries apply tariffs only on a few categories of medicines. However, Uruguay, Paraguay, Argentina, Brazil, India, Mexico, and Morocco apply them to over 70 different categories: 158 in the case of Uruguay.

Vaccines are widely recognised as one of the most cost-effective and important health interventions. The study finds that few countries apply tariffs to vaccines. However, India, Ghana and DR Congo have the highest levels, applying them at an average level 10 per cent.

Study co-author Philip Stevens said “Vaccines are vital for preventing disease and suffering, particularly amongst children. There are a number of important steps which need to be taken to achieve universal coverage and if countries like India abolish tariffs on imported vaccines, this would constitute one of those steps”.


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How will the TPP impact access to medicines and innovation?

Prof Elizabeth Ng (NUS) sets out the context of IP in the TPP

Prof Elizabeth Ng (NUS) sets out the context of IP in the TPP

Geneva Network co-hosted its first event on 21 May, in Singapore, with our friends at SEANET. The aim was to cast some light over the debate about TPP and health, which so far has been rather apocalyptic.

Prof Elizabeth Ng of the National University of Singapore kicked off by giving some context around the TPP, citing data showing the relative levels of medical innovation that occurs in each TPP country and outlining the various arguments for and against the likely IP components. She also raised the question of how the new IP requirements of TPP will fit into the existing constellation of trade deals in the ASEAN region.

Philip Stevens of the Geneva Network then set out some of the likely impacts of the TPP on health, citing his research showing that trade liberalization has historically driven up health outcomes, as it accelerates economic growth and the transfer of knowledge and technologies related to health. He also addressed some of the more alarmist predictions that have been circulating in the media about the IP aspects of TPP.

From the patient side, Andrew Spiegel of the Global Colon Cancer Association gave examples of the transformative effect new biologic medicines have had for sufferers for this disease. Bill Claxton of Singapore’s Carcinoid and Neuroendrocrine Tumor Society talked about the importance of innovation for sufferers of rare diseases, and patients’ needs for early access to new medicines.

From the pharmaceutical industry perspective, Mo Mayrides of PhRMA argued the importance of data exclusivity provisions being proposed in TPP for innovation in biologics. A sufficient period of data exclusivity, he argued, is vital for securing investment in this high-risk field of research and development because of the ease with which patents can be worked around.

Our thanks go to Debbi Helms of the Asian Trade Centre who made a fantastic moderator.