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SN 99(12)

Sales and Use Tax Exemption for
Nonprescription Drugs and Medicines

This publication has been cited in IP 2000(26) and superseded by SN 2001(3)

PURPOSE: This Special Notice describes the sales and use tax exemption for certain nonprescription drugs and medicines, including the 1999 legislative amendments to the exemption.

EFFECTIVE DATE: Effective for sales occurring on or after July 1, 1999.

STATUTORY AUTHORITY: Conn. Gen. Stat. §12-412(48), as amended by 1999 Conn. Pub. Acts 173, §18.

BACKGROUND: The 1999 General Assembly expanded Conn. Gen. Stat. §12-412(48) by adding a number of categories of nonprescription drugs and medicines to the exemption. (Prescription drugs and medicines, diabetic supplies and certain medical equipment are exempt under separate provisions.)

Previous exemption. Before July 1, 1999, the nonprescription drug and medicine exemption included:

  • vitamin concentrates;
  • products intended to be taken for coughs and colds;
  • laxatives;
  • aspirin and other drugs or medicines having pharmacological effects similar to those of aspirin and generally classified as internal analgesics;
  • antacids; and
  • any medication prepared as an ointment or solution to be used in a person’s eyes for the care and treatment of any disease of the eyes.

New additions to the exemption. The amendment to Conn. Gen. Stat. §12-412(48) in 1999 Conn. Pub. Acts 173, §18 adds the following items to the exemption: mineral concentrates; dietary supplements; natural or herbal medicines; asthma or allergy medicines; antihistamines; antidiarrheal medicines; antibiotic, antiviral and antifungal medicines; antiseptics; astringents; anesthetics; steroidal medicines; anthelmintics; emetics and antiemetics; ear or nose medications. The amendment specifically excludes from the exemption cosmetics, dentifrices, mouthwash, shaving and hair care products, soaps and deodorants.

The new amendment specifies that the exemption applies to drugs and medicines for use in or on the human body. Previously, most of the items in the exemption were exempt only if sold for internal use, but not for topical or external use. Prior to July 1, 1999, the Department also exempted nonprescription drugs and medicines for veterinary use.

DRUGS AND MEDICINES EXEMPT UNDER THE EXPANDED EXEMPTION: The exemption, as expanded by the 1999 legislation, now includes the items in the following categories of drugs and medicines, available for purchase without prescription, intended for human use only:

  • vitamin or mineral concentrates;
  • dietary supplements;
  • natural or herbal drugs or medicines;
  • cough, cold, asthma or allergy medicines;
  • antihistamines;
  • laxatives;
  • antidiarrheal medicines;
  • analgesics;
  • antibiotic, antiviral and antifungal medicines;
  • antiseptics;
  • astringents;
  • anesthetics;
  • steroidal medicines;
  • anthelmintics;
  • emetics and antiemetics;
  • antacids; and
  • eye, ear or nose medications.

FORMS THAT DRUGS AND MEDICINES MAY TAKE: Prior to July 1, 1999, most of the nonprescription items that were exempt were intended to be taken or used internally. Under the expanded exemption, any of the above-listed categories of drugs or medicines may be taken or used either internally or externally.

Internal drugs and medicines include but are not limited to pills, tablets, capsules, creams, ointments, drops, liquids, lozenges, powders, syrups, elixirs, solutions, sprays and suppositories.

External drugs and medicines include but are not limited to ointments, salves, creams, sprays, gels, drops, liquids, pads and powders.

Drugs and medicines not included in the exemption are not exempt, even if they are taken or used in any of the internal or external forms listed above.

DEFINITIONS OF CATEGORIES OF EXEMPT DRUGS AND MEDICATIONS: The following are brief definitions and descriptions of each of the categories of nonprescription drugs and medicines that are listed as exempt in Conn. Gen. Stat. §12-412(48):

Vitamin or Mineral Concentrates

Vitamin or mineral preparations, such as multivitamins, multivitamins plus minerals, individual vitamins, individual minerals or any combinations thereof, for internal or external use.

Dietary Supplements

Products specifically designed and marketed as nutritional supplements or dietary enhancements. Dietary supplements generally include specific vitamins, minerals, protein, carbohydrates, fiber or other nutritional substances.

Dietary supplements are usually sold as food items (such as nutritional food bars, drinks or drink mixes), diet and weight loss products, "fat burning" products, weight gain products, health food products, bodybuilding or strength enhancing products, or as drugs and medicines.

Natural or Herbal Drugs or Medicines

All types of drugs, medicines, vitamins, minerals and dietary supplements that are derived or made from natural, herbal or vegetable sources or substances.

Cough, Cold, Asthma or Allergy Medicines

Products intended to be taken for relief from coughs, colds, influenza, asthma or allergies, such as products containing analgesics, antihistamines, cough suppressants and expectorants, individually or in combination with one another. These products are usually intended to eliminate or reduce associated symptoms such as fever, chills, pain, coughing, sore throat, wheezing, nasal congestion, dryness, headache, insomnia or drowsiness.


Products containing antihistamines (or "histamine blockers") intended to be taken for a variety of symptoms and conditions, including allergies and allergic reactions, coughs, colds, insomnia, insect bites, itching, drowsiness, nausea and motion sickness.


Products intended to stimulate evacuation of the bowels, including stool softeners and enemas.

Antidiarrheal Medicines

Products intended to relieve diarrhea or loose stools.


Drugs and medicines intended to reduce or eliminate pain, fever or inflammation; includes aspirin and other salicylates, acetaminophen, ibuprophen and naproxen.

Antibiotic, Antiviral and Antifungal Medicines

Drugs and medicines intended to destroy or inhibit the growth of bacteria, viruses, fungi (including yeasts) and other microorganisms.


Products intended to clean wounds or sores and destroy or inhibit the growth of microorganisms; includes rubbing alcohol, hydrogen peroxide and iodine.


Products intended to draw together or constrict tissue; includes alum, styptics, witch hazel and zinc oxide.


Drugs and medicines intended to deaden or cause insensitivity to pain; includes benzocaine and lidocaine.

Steroidal Medicines

Products containing steroids intended for the relief of pain, inflammation, itching and other symptoms; includes hydrocortisone.


Drugs or medicines intended to expel or destroy worms, such as roundworms and tapeworms.

Emetics and antiemetics

Products intended to induce or prevent vomiting.


Products intended to prevent, neutralize or reduce stomach acid and to prevent or reduce gas, nausea and bloating.

Eye, Ear or Nose Medications

Products intended to be used in or on the eyes, ears or nose.

LIST OF COMMON EXEMPT ITEMS UNDER THE EXPANDED EXEMPTION: Many exempt nonprescription drugs and medicines are readily identifiable based on the definitions set forth above. However, some products contain as active ingredients more than one category of drug or medicine, or are not easy to identify based solely on their names.

The following is a list of nonprescription products that usually consist of or contain drugs and medicines listed in the exemption as their active ingredients, and that are therefore exempt:

  • acne creams, lotions and pads with benzoyl peroxide
  • allergy pills and creams
  • aloe vera gel
  • alum
  • antacid pills, chewable tablets and liquids
  • anti-itch creams and sprays
  • arthritis creams and rubs
  • astringent skin cleansers, lotions and pads
  • athlete’s foot medicines
  • bandages medicated with antiseptics or antibiotics
  • boric acid
  • burn sprays, creams and ointments
  • calamine lotion
  • canker sore medicines
  • cold and flu medicines
  • cold sore medicines
  • contact lens cleaning and disinfecting solutions
  • cough drops and lozenges
  • diaper rash creams with zinc oxide
  • diarrhea medicines
  • diet and weight loss products consisting primarily of vitamins or minerals
  • ear drops
  • ear wax removal products
  • echinacea
  • eczema creams
  • enemas
  • Epsom salt
  • eye drops
  • eye washes
  • fever reducing medicines
  • foot creams, soaks, sprays and powders (except foot deodorants)
  • garlic pills
  • gas relief or prevention medicines
  • ginkgo biloba
  • ginseng
  • hemorrhoidal ointments, suppositories and swabs
  • hydrocortisone creams
  • hydrogen peroxide
  • insect bite creams and sprays
  • iodine
  • ipecac syrup
  • laxatives and cathartics
  • lip balms
  • medicated chest rubs
  • medicated douches
  • menopause symptom products
  • menstrual or premenstrual symptom products
  • menthol gel
  • milk of magnesia
  • nasal sprays and drops
  • nutritional food drinks, powders and bars
  • pain relievers
  • pediatric electrolyte and fluid replacement products
  • poison ivy creams and sprays
  • psoriasis creams
  • rubbing alcohol and alcohol swabs
  • saline solution for contact lenses
  • skin creams with zinc oxide
  • sleep aids
  • sore throat sprays
  • sports creams
  • St. John’s wort
  • stool softeners
  • styptic pencils
  • sunburn sprays, creams and ointments
  • talcum powder medicated with zinc oxide or menthol
  • teething and tooth pain medicines
  • urinary pain relief products
  • vitamin and mineral tablets, capsules and creams
  • wart, corn and bunion removal medicines with salicylic acid
  • witch hazel
  • yeast infection medicines
  • zinc oxide creams

This list is not all-inclusive. Please refer to the definitions of exempt categories of drugs and medicines, above, and the lists of taxable items, below.

TAXABLE ITEMS SPECIFICALLY EXCLUDED FROM THE EXEMPTION: The 1999 legislative amendment to Conn. Gen. Stat. §12-412(48) specifically excludes several categories of items from the exemption. Therefore, these categories of items are taxable, even if they contain drugs or medicines:

  • cosmetics;
  • dentifrices (toothpaste, tooth powder, dental floss, denture cream, denture cleaner, etc.);
  • mouthwash;
  • shaving products (shaving cream, aftershave lotion, depilatories, etc.);
  • hair care products (shampoo, conditioner, hairspray, dandruff remedies, etc.);
  • soaps (skin, body, facial, foot, etc.); and
  • deodorants (underarm, foot, feminine, etc.).

Products that are marketed as items in these categories remain subject to sales and use taxes, even if they contain drugs or medicines that are listed in the exemption. For example, mouthwashes are not exempt even though they contain antiseptics such as alcohol or hydrogen peroxide or are labeled "antiseptic." Likewise, medicated cosmetics, medicated toothpaste, medicated aftershave lotion or shaving cream, medicated soap, medicated shampoo and dandruff treatments and medicated deodorants are not exempt, regardless of how they are labeled.

OTHER TAXABLE ITEMS NOT INCLUDED IN THE EXEMPTION: The following are some nonprescription items that are not exempt, because they do not contain one of the exempt categories of drugs and medicines among their active ingredients. This list is not all-inclusive. Please refer to the other list of taxable items, above.

  • appetite suppressants whose active ingredients are caffeine or phenylpropanolamine
  • bandages and wound dressings (unless medicated with antiseptics or antibiotics)
  • caffeine products for drowsiness
  • contraceptive products
  • cotton swabs
  • diuretics
  • hair growing products with minoxidil
  • hair removal products
  • lice treatment products
  • lubricating jelly
  • mineral oil
  • moisturizers
  • nicotine gum, patches and tablets
  • petroleum jelly
  • sanitary napkins and tampons
  • skin, hand, face and body creams and lotions (unless medicated with zinc oxide or
  • benzoyl peroxide)
  • suntan lotion, sunscreens and sunblocks
  • talcum and baby powder (unless medicated with zinc oxide or menthol)

EFFECT ON OTHER DOCUMENTS: This Special Notice supersedes Bulletin #27 and modifies the Addendum to Bulletin #27 dated June 27, 1987. This Special Notice modifies Policy Statement 92(11.2), Sales and Use Taxes on Sales and Purchases Made by Veterinarians.

EFFECT OF THIS DOCUMENT: A Special Notice is a document that announces a new policy or practice in response to changes in State or federal laws or regulations or to judicial decisions. A Special Notice indicates the Department’s informal interpretation of Connecticut tax law and may be referred to for general guidance by taxpayers or tax practitioners.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION: Please call the Department of Revenue Services during business hours, Monday through Friday:

  • 1-800-382-9463
  • (toll-free within Connecticut), or
  • 860-297-5962
  • (anywhere).

TTY, TDD and Text Telephone users only may transmit inquiries 24 hours a day by calling 860-297-4911.

FORMS AND PUBLICATIONS: Forms and publications are available all day, seven days a week:

  • Internet:
  • preview and download forms and publications from the DRS web site
  • Telephone:
  • Call 1-800-382-9463 (toll-free from within Connecticut), or 860-297-5962 (anywhere) and select Option 2 from a touch-tone phone

SN 99(12)
Sales and Use Taxes
Index heading
Issued: 08/30/99