The waiver of concessions on customs duty on 76 life-saving drugs for critical ailments has evoked mixed responses. While some quarters fear it will lead to a 10% to 25% increase in costs of these drugs, others say the impact on prices will be minimal.

The government notification pertains to even 47 drugs on the National List of Essential Medicines (NLEM) and applies to drugs to treat diseases like cancer, diabetes, haemophilia, HIV and some infections.
However, some experts say the Government move was in response to a plea from the industry to withdraw concessions for imported products so that local manufacturing would get a boost.

Indian Drug Manufacturers Association (IDMA) president SV Veeramani said the roll-back of customs duty exemptions would not send essential drug prices up as the increase in duty will only be marginal – which manufacturers can absorb. At the finished product stage, there will only be a net increase of around 2%-3%, as per Veeramani’s calculations.

A majority of the drugs withdrawn from the list are those that already have generic copies, adds Leena Menghaney, a lawyer working on public health and policy.


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