Drugs for rare diseases get customs duty relief

Drugs for rare diseases get customs duty relief



  • The center issues a waiver to offer substantial cost savings for those in need of such treatments; pembrolizumab (Keytruda) used in the treatment of various cancers also gets the same concession.

Points to ponder:

  • The Indian government has announced that drugs and food for special medical purposes imported for personal use to treat rare diseases listed under the National Policy for Rare Diseases, 2021 will be exempted from basic customs duty.
  • The exemption also applies to pembrolizumab (Keytruda), a drug used in the treatment of various cancers.
  • The exemption will be effective from Saturday and individuals importing these drugs will need to provide a certificate from the Central or State Director of Health Services or District Medical Officer/Civil Surgeon of the district.
  • Normally, drugs and medicines attract a basic customs duty of 10%, but some categories of life-saving drugs/vaccines attract a concessional rate of 5% or are exempted from duty altogether.
  • This exemption has been introduced in response to representations from people seeking customs duty relief for drugs and medicines used to treat other rare diseases.
  • The cost of drugs or special foods required for the treatment of these rare diseases is often expensive and needs to be imported.
  • The exemption will result in significant cost savings for patients and provide much-needed relief to them.