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Prescription Drugs and Medical Devices

Prescription drugs

The supply of a drug intended for human use is zero-rated under the GST and QST systems when the drug is dispensed by a pharmacist, on the prescription of a medical practitioner or an authorized individual, for the consumption or use by the individual named in the prescription. The same applies when the drug is dispensed by a medical practitioner to an individual for consumption or use by the individual or a related individual.

Medical devices

Certain medical devices, such as the following, are unconditionally zero-rated at all times:

  • toilet seats specially designed for use by an individual with a disability
  • insulin infusion pumps and blood-glucose monitors
  • mechanical percussors for postural drainage treatment and chest wall oscillation systems for airway clearance therapy
  • hearing aids
  • laryngeal speaking aids
  • wheelchairs and walkers designed to be operated by an individual with a disability
  • canes and crutches specially designed for use by an individual with a disability

Other devices are zero-rated where certain conditions are met. The following devices, for example, are zero-rated if they are supplied on the written order of a medical practitioner for use by the individual named in the order:

  • aerosol chambers and metered-dose inhalers intended for use in the treatment of asthma
  • heart-monitoring devices for use by a consumer with heart disease
  • devices that are designed to convert sound into light signals, for use by a consumer with a hearing impairment
  • catheters for subcutaneous injections
  • chairs specially designed for use by an individual with a disability
  • extremity pumps, intermittent pressure pumps or similar devices for use in the treatment of lymphedema
  • orthotic or orthopaedic devices
  • footwear that is specially designed for use by an individual who has a crippled or deformed foot or similar disability

Medical devices supplied on the written order of any other healthcare professional are taxable.

Taxable supplies of drugs, medical devices and health products

Certain drugs, medical devices and health products sold in pharmacies and medical supply stores are taxable. Examples include:

  • over-the-counter drugs such as nasal and sinus preparations, acetylsalicylic acid and acetaminophen
  • eye drops
  • various vitamins and minerals
  • cold remedies and cough medicine
  • medicated shampoo
  • personal health products such as bandages and ankle and knee supports

These goods are available in pharmacies and medical supply stores and are designed for the treatment of minor illnesses and injuries that do not require the advice or intervention of a healthcare professional. Therefore, they are generally taxable whether or not they are prescribed by a medical practitioner or authorized individual.

For example, an over-the-counter acetylsalicylic acid product sold in a pharmacy is taxable if the purchaser simply shows his or her prescription for this product to the pharmacist. However, the product is zero-rated if the buyer gives the prescription directly to the pharmacist and the pharmacist dispenses the product.

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