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Centre exempts customs duties for imported medicines and food used to treat rare diseases

The National Policy for Rare Diseases 2021 outlines all of the rare diseases that are eligible for full exemption from basic customs duty by the central government, which has issued a general exemption notification. This exemption covers all imported food and medications for particular medical uses as well as those that are imported for personal use.

The individual importer must present a certificate from the District Medical Officer/Civil Surgeon of the district, the Central or State Director of Health Services, in order to qualify for this exemption. A basic customs duty of 10% is often applied to drugs and medicines, with a concessional rate of 5% or nil applied to specific categories of life-saving medications and vaccinations.

The government has received several requests for customs duty relief for drugs and treatments used to treat various rare diseases, despite the fact that certain drugs for the treatment of Duchenne muscular dystrophy or spinal muscular atrophy have previously received exemptions.

The expensive medications or specialised meals needed to treat these conditions must be imported. According to estimates, the annual cost of treating some rare diseases for a child weighing 10 kg can range from 10 lakh to 1 crore, with treatment being lifelong and drug dose and price rising with age and weight.

This exemption will save a lot of money while giving the patients the much-needed relief. Pembrolizumab (Keytruda), which is used to treat a number of cancers, has also been completely exempted from basic customs duty by the government.

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