Drugs for rare diseases get customs duty relief

Centre issues waiver to offer substantial cost savings for those in need of such treatments; pembrolizumab (Keytruda) used in treatment of various cancers also gets the same concession

March 30, 2023 11:54 am | Updated March 31, 2023 02:45 am IST - NEW DELHI

Photo used for representation purpose only.

Photo used for representation purpose only.

The Central Government has given full exemption from basic customs duty on all drugs and food for special medical purposes imported for personal use for treatment of all Rare Diseases listed under the National Policy for Rare Diseases 2021 through a general exemption notification.

In order to avail this exemption, the individual importer has to produce a certificate from Central or State Director Health Services or District Medical Officer/Civil Surgeon of the district. Drugs/Medicines generally attract basic customs duty of 10%, while some categories of lifesaving drugs/vaccines attract concessional rate of 5% or Nil.

According to a release issued by the Central Government while exemptions have already been provided to specified drugs for treatment of Spinal Muscular Atrophy or Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, the Government has been receiving many representations seeking customs duty relief for drugs and medicines used in treatment of other Rare Diseases.

Drugs or Special Foods required for the treatment of these diseases are expensive and need to be imported.

It is estimated that for a child weighing 10 kg, the annual cost of treatment for some rare diseases, may vary from ₹10 lakh to more than ₹1 crore per year with treatment being lifelong and drug dose and cost, increasing with age and weight. 

This exemption will result in substantial cost savings and provide much needed relief to the patients, said the release.

The Government has also fully exempted Pembrolizumab (Keytruda) used in treatment of various cancers from basic customs duty.

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