A number of life-saving and cancer drugs could see a sharp rise in prices as the Finance Ministry has withdrawn customs duty exemption.

The Central Board of Excise and Customs (CBEC), in a recent notification, has removed a number of life-saving drugs and bulk drugs for manufacturing these drugs as well as diagnostic kit from customs duty exemptions.

These include drugs, such as recombinant human erythropoietin, which is used for dialysis, anti-retroviral medicines and filgrastim that is used for chemotherapy.

Accordingly, the specified drugs that are imported as well as manufactured in special economic zones will now be taxed at rates as high as 22 per cent.

Sources said the decision was taken to promote the Prime Minister’s Make in India campaign and encourage domestic production of these drugs.

However, the move has raised concerns over these drugs becoming more expensive for patients.

“These drugs will now cost 22 per cent more. Also, the rupee has depreciated, and all these costs will pass down to the patients,” Chairman and Managing Director, Biocon Kiran Mazumdar Shaw told BusinessLine.

In January this year, the Finance Ministry had also increased the basic customs duty rate on specified medical devices to 7.5 per cent and had also withdrawn the 4 per cent exemption from additional customs duty on them.

Simultaneously, for manufacture of medical devices in the country, it had reduced the basic customs duty to 2.5 per cent on raw materials, parts and accessories for these and also exempted them from SAD.

“These changes are expected to provide impetuous to the domestic medical devices sector, support the Make in India campaign of the Government and generate employment,” the Finance Ministry had said at the time.

However, in 2012, the Ministry had exempted six specific life-saving drugs and vaccines from excise duty to cut down their prices and make them more affordable.