GST rollout: ‘Prices of many popular drugs may be unaffected, supply won’t be hit’

GST rollout: On Friday, NPPA chairman Bhupendra Singh asked consumers to call up helpline 1800111255 if they face shortage of any drug, by providing the brand name and chemist in their complaint.

Written by ​TABASSUM BARNAGARWALA | Mumbai | Published:July 1, 2017 3:11 am

The National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) announced Friday that prices of at least 78 per cent of the actively used and traded drugs will remain unaffected after the Goods and Services Tax (GST) comes into effect from July 1.

Even as confusion over drug shortage persists amid the GST rollout, several chemists across the city said there would be sufficient supply of medicines in the coming days for consumers.

On Friday, NPPA chairman Bhupendra Singh asked consumers to call up helpline 1800111255 if they face shortage of any drug, by providing the brand name, chemist, dosage and manufacturer’s name in their complaint. Earlier, the central regulatory body had announced provisional ceiling prices for 761 medicines, including those for HIV, diabetes, antibiotics, and cancer. Prices of other essential medicines are expected to rise between 2-3 per cent once the GST kicks in.

Anil Navandar, secretary of Maharashtra State Druggists and Chemists Association, said at present, chemists are buying drugs only as per requirement. “We expect normal supply to return in three-four days. But there will be no scarcity anywhere,” he said. Instead of maintaining 30-45 days stock, several chemists are stocking drugs for 15 days, Navandar added.

According to Vinod Chemist, Andheri West, there has been no rush of consumers to stock drugs before GST. “We are waiting to buy new stock after July 1. Prices of some medicines will rise, and some will fall. But the difference will not be huge,” the shopkeeper said.

Chemists— who were earlier buying smaller stock and thinking of returning purchased medicines to manufacturers— have decided to continue with the existing supply following the latest meeting between manufacturers and the national chemist body. Over 60 manufacturers, including pharma giants Sun Pharma, Abbott, Sanofi and Glaxo SmithKline, have agreed to pay a share of the loss chemists will incur for paying Central GST for drugs purchased before July 1 and sold after that date. Chemists have already paid VAT on these drugs, and the CGST will become an additional tax on the same drugs.

“More manufacturers are expected to pay for the difference in tax. Several chemists wanted to send the stock back because they were forced to pay extra tax on already purchased drugs. The government is providing only 40 per cent exemption on this tax, the rest will be shared between the manufacturer and the retailer,” said Jagannath Shinde, president of All India Organisation of Druggists and Chemists (AIOCD).

In the run-up to the GST rollout, a few e-pharma websites had run an online campaign to inform customers of a possible drug shortage and advised them to stock supply. “Since a lot of chemists were planning to return their stock, we created awareness so that there is no shortage of essential medicines for patients,” said Dr Dhaval Shah, co-founder of Pharmeasy.

“Online portals don’t have to pay the difference,” said Pradeep Dadha, founder of Netmeds.com.

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