New Delhi: At least 74 drugs -- including life-saving ones used to treat cancer and HIV and haemophilia -- will see a sharp rise in prices as the government has withdrawn customs duty exemption on their imports in a move, some say, that's meant to boost the Make in India programme.
- Govt withdraws duty exemptions to make some foreign drugs more expensive
- Among the 74 drugs are ones used to treat cancer, HIV & haemophilia
- Move reportedly in an effort to boost domestic manufacturing industry
The withdrawal of exemption came last week, following a notice by the Central Board of Excise and Customs. An increase has also been made in the customs duty rates of certain life-saving drugs.
The move will make treatment of a multitude of diseases costlier: Apart from HIV, cancer and haemophilia, the list includes kidney stones, heart rhythm disorders, diabetes, Parkinson's Disease, bone diseases, bacterial infections, anesthetic medication, allergies, arthritis, lupus, menopause, glaucoma, poisoning by a chemical or pesticide, growth failure in children and ulcerative colitis.
Admitting that the government wants to protect the interests of Indian industry, Dr GN Singh, Drug controller of India, however, said efforts are being made to stop the rise of drug prices.
"We are aware of this problem... The health ministry and pharma officials are all taking steps to address this. We won't allow prices to rise," Dr Singh told NDTV.
Talking about the withdrawal of exemptions, he said, "Various people wanted the government to take measures to protect Indian interests".
KPMG India Partner and Head of Indirect Tax Sachin Menon told news agency PTI that the withdrawal of exemption is "is intended to provide protection to the domestic manufacturing industry and enhance the attractiveness of make in India initiative".
The changes signify the intention of the government to promote domestic manufacture of these items as imports would now become more expensive, Mr Mani said.
Calling the government's decision "most unfortunate", Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, the chairman and managing director of biotechnology firm Biocon Limited, said the removal of exemptions really "impact" patients.
"We understand the make in India concept, but if duty increases on international drugs, it impacts domestic pricing as well," she said. "In principle, we should as a country, save life saving drugs from any kind of duty, especially since its what we claim our national mission to be."