Centre gives full basic customs duty exemption on import of drugs for rare diseases

Centre gives full basic customs duty exemption on import of drugs for rare diseases
In a significant step, the Centre has given full exemption from basic customs duty on all drugs as well as food for special medical purposes imported for treatment of all rare diseases and personal use under the National Policy for Rare Diseases 2021, through a general exemption notification.

This would facilitate the smooth availability of drugs for the treatment of critical and rare diseases, official sources said.

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

Drugs or medicines generally attract basic customs duty of 10 per cent, while some categories of life-saving drugs and vaccines attract a concessional rate of 5 per cent or nil charges.

To avail of this exemption, the individual importer has to produce a certificate from the central or state director of health services or from the district medical officer or civil surgeon of the district.


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. 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.

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