Govt. exempts import duty on drugs, food needed for special medical purposes
The Central Government announces full exemption from customs duty on all imported drugs and food for Special Medical Purposes, for personal use, or for treatment of all rare diseases listed under the National Policy for Rare Diseases 2021. The Ministry of Finance issued this notification on 30 March 2023.
The individual importer has to submit a document from the District Medical Officer, Civil Surgeon of the district or the Central or State Director of Health Services in order to qualify for this exemption. The exemption in import duty will come into effect from April 1, 2023. The Government has also fully exempted Pembrolizumab (Keytruda) used in the treatment of various cancers from basic customs duty.
In spite of the fact that certain drugs used to treat Duchenne muscular dystrophy or Spinal Muscular Atrophy have already received exemptions, the Central Government has received numerous requests for relief from customs duties for drugs and medicines used to treat other rare diseases. Drugs or medicines generally attract basic customs duty of 10%, while some categories of lifesaving drugs or vaccines attract a concessional rate of 5% or Nil. Medicines or special food items for the treatment of rare diseases are very expensive and need to be imported, keeping this in view, the government has taken this step.
According to estimates, the yearly cost of treating some rare diseases for a child weighing 10 kg can range from 10 lakh to more than 1 crore, with treatment lasting a lifetime and drug dose and price rising with age and weight. According to the release, this exemption will save money and give the patients much-needed comfort.