The Centre has given full exemption from basic customs duty to 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 through a general exemption notification.
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 or Civil Surgeon of the district. Drugs or medicines generally attract basic customs duty of 10 per cent, while some categories of lifesaving drugs/vaccines attract concessional rate of 5 per cent or nil.
While exemptions have already been provided to specified drugs for 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 the treatment being lifelong and drug dose and cost, increasing with age and weight.
This exemption is expected to result in substantial cost savings and provide much needed relief to the patients.