Centre exempts import duty on medicines to treat rare diseases

The import duty waiver will come into effect from April 1. Photo: Shutterstock/Bukhta Yurii

New Delhi: The Central Government has on Thursday exempted basic customs duty on medicines imported by individuals to treat rare diseases.

"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 the treatment of all rare diseases listed under the National Policy for Rare Diseases 2021," a finance ministry statement said.

The import duty waiver will come into effect from April 1.

Drugs/Medicines generally attract basic customs duty of 10 per cent, while some categories of life-saving drugs/vaccines attract a concessional rate of 5 per cent or Nil.

The government also has exempted Pembrolizumab (Keytruda), used in the treatment of various cancers, from basic customs duty.

To avail of this exemption, the individual importer has to produce a certificate from the Central or State Director of Health Services or District Medical Officer/Civil Surgeon of the district.

Food for Special Medical Purposes is a food formulation intended to provide nutritional support to persons who suffer from a specific disease, disorder, or medical condition, as a part of their dietary management.

While exemptions have already been provided to specified drugs for the 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 the treatment of other rare diseases.

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

The ministry said it is estimated that for a child weighing 10 kg, the annual cost of treatment for some rare diseases, may vary from Rs 10 lakh to more than Rs 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," the ministry said.

(With inputs from PTI)

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