Our Bureau

Mumbai, Feb. 28

Dosas and condensed milk will cost less, but not your medicine, quips

Wockhardt's Chairman, Mr Habil Khorakiwala

, voicing the collective disappointment of the pharmaceutical industry, which has been all but ignored by Budget 2006.

There is some respite for people with cancer or AIDS, with the Finance Minister having reduced Customs duty on 10 anti-AIDS and14 anti-cancer drugs to 5 per cent.

Duties have also been reduced on certain life-saving drugs, kits and equipment from 15 per cent to five per cent. These drugs would also be exempt from excise and countervailing duty.

The benefit of duty cuts on anti-AIDS drugs will be passed on to patients, said

Mr Amar Lulla, Joint Managing Director of Cipla

; the company has a presence in the anti-AIDS segment in India and overseas.

No sops for research

However, the Budget has been "completely silent" on a bulk of the pharma industry's wish-list: sops for research, support for intellectual property-related expenses, and halving of excise duty that currently stands at 16 per cent.

Free medicine samples given to doctors have been removed from the ambit of fringe benefit tax (FBT) and the impact of FBT would be reduced by a third, Mr Khorakiwala said.

Expressing her disappointment that research was not given a fillip,

Dr Swati Piramal of Nicholas Piramal India

said: "I was expecting some tax credits at least for research."

Unhappy that the Budget did not deliver on infrastructure, research, or manufacturing-related requirements of the pharma industry,

Mr D.G. Shah of the Indian Pharmaceutical Alliance

said: "It is clear that pharmaceuticals does not exist in the Finance Minister's dictionary."

It is the second year in a row that the pharma industry has been ignored and this will affect local investment, said

Mr Daara Patel of the Indian Drug Manufacturers Association

, which represents about 550 small and big drug-makers.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated March 1, 2006)
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