The government on Thursday announced full customs duty exemption on all drugs and food for special medical purposes imported for personal use for treatment of rare diseases. The waiver of import duty will come into effect from April 1, 2023.
The government has also exempted Pembrolizumab (Keytruda), used in treatment of various cancers, from basic customs duty.
Generally drugs or medicines attract basic customs duty of 10 per cent, but some categories of life saving drugs and vaccines attract a concessional rate of 5 per cent or Nil.
According to a finance ministry statement, "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."
Exemptions for foods for special medical purposes
Food for Special Medical Purposes is a food formulation that is given to a patient as part of their dietary management to provide nutritional support to persons who suffer from a specific disease, disorder or a medical condition.
Why were the exemptions given?
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.
How can you avail this exemption?
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.
Which drugs were earlier given an exemption?
Exemptions were already provided to specified drugs for treatment of Spinal Muscular Atrophy or Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, but the government has been receiving many representations seeking customs duty relief for drugs and medicines used in treatment of other rare diseases.
With inputs from PTI
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