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Customs duty full exemption for all imported drugs & food for Special Medical Purposes for treatment of all rare diseases

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New Delhi: In a major move to help patients suffering from rare diseases, the Central Government of India has announced full exemption from basic customs duty on all drugs and Food for Special Medical Purposes imported for personal use. This exemption is applicable for the treatment of all Rare Diseases listed under the National Policy for Rare Diseases 2021 through a general exemption notification.

Previously, drugs and medicines generally attracted basic customs duty of 10%, while some categories of lifesaving drugs/vaccines attracted concessional rate of 5% or Nil. However, this exemption will allow individuals to save a substantial amount on expensive drugs and special foods required for the treatment of rare diseases.

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. The government has already provided exemptions for specified drugs used in the treatment of Spinal Muscular Atrophy or Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. However, they have been receiving many representations seeking customs duty relief for drugs and medicines used in the treatment of other rare diseases.

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 provide much-needed relief to the patients and their families.

Additionally, the government has also fully exempted Pembrolizumab (Keytruda) used in the treatment of various cancers from basic customs duty. This move will further ease the financial burden on cancer patients who require this life-saving drug.

The exemption of basic customs duty on drugs and Food for Special Medical Purposes will not only reduce the financial burden on patients suffering from rare diseases but also help in their treatment and management. The government’s decision has been widely appreciated by patient groups and healthcare professionals across the country.

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