Brazil is a world leader in drug taxation


Folha de S. Paulo - 19/08/2012

Among 38 countries, Brazil is currently the record holder in the level of taxation on drugs sold in pharmacies under prescription.

The sum of the federal and state tax rates on the product, of 28%, is three times greater than the average obtained between the countries of the study. Some, like Canada, Mexico and the United Kingdom, have a zero rate on medicines.

The finding is from an unprecedented study by researcher Nick Bosanquet, professor of health policy at Imperial College, London, who considered consumption taxes in each of the countries.

In Brazil, ICMS, a tax charged by the governments of the states, and PIS / Cofins, charged by the federal government were accounted for.

The ranking is part of a publication by Interfarma (Association of the Pharmaceutical Research Industry), which will be released tomorrow.


The record level of taxation has a direct impact on consumers' pockets, since, in the Brazilian market, spending on medicines is not reimbursed by the State or by health plans, as occurs in developed countries.

In the Brazilian pharmaceutical market, whose revenue totaled R $ 42,8 billion in 2011, according to data from the IMS Health Institute, 71,4% of the disbursement is made directly by the population.

In European countries, 10% to 15% of spending is borne by the consumer.

"The consumer takes out of his own pocket to finance his treatment and still pays the highest tax in the world," says Antonio Brito, president of Interfarma. "The sum of the two situations is explosive."

The elimination of taxes on prescription drugs can increase sales by 2,5% to 5%, says the study.

This impact would occur mainly among low-income consumers.

IBGE data show that the disbursement of class E families for medicines is R $ 7 per month.

The richest spend R $ 97 a month, while the national average is R $ 38,60.

"These figures show that access to medicines depends exclusively on the Brazilian's income," says Brito.


According to the tax attorney Bruno Coutinho de Aguiar, from the Rayes e Fagundes office, the great villain of taxation in the pharmaceutical sector is the ICMS.

The state tax rate is, on average, 17%.

"An essential product such as medicine has a higher rate than that of automobiles, for example."

Marcelo Liebhard, director of economic affairs at Interfarma, says that, in many states, the amount collected with the ICMS on medicines is higher than the amount spent by the government on the distribution of medicines.

"This occurs in São Paulo, where R $ 3 billion in tax is collected."

According to experts, the impeding price increases the demands in court asking for the supply of medicines by the government. It is estimated that there are 200 lawsuits in the Brazilian courts with this type of request.