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Tariff Classification of Medicaments Including Natural Health Products
Memorandum D10-14-30

Ottawa, May 27, 2014

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In Brief

  • This memorandum has been updated to reflect the current version of the Customs Tariff, additional jurisprudence, a decision of the Harmonized Systems Committee of the World Customs Organization related to medicaments, and changes to the Canada Border Services Agency's organizational structure.

This memorandum explains the Canada Border Services Agency’s (CBSA) policy for the tariff classification of medicaments, including natural health products, under headings 30.03 and 30.04 of the Customs Tariff. The policy is based on jurisprudence for classifying medicaments resulting from decisions of the Canadian International Trade Tribunal (CITT) and the Federal Court of Appeal.


Customs Tariff

Legal Notes

Section VI

Note 1.

Note 2.

Chapter 30

Note 1.

Heading 30.03

Medicaments (excluding goods of heading 30.02, 30.05 or 30.06) consisting of two or more constituents which have been mixed together for therapeutic or prophylactic uses, not put up in measured doses or in forms or packings for retail sale.

Heading 30.04

Medicaments (excluding goods of heading 30.02, 30.05 or 30.06) consisting of mixed or unmixed products for therapeutic or prophylactic uses, put up in measured doses (including those in the form of transdermal administration systems) or in forms or packings for retail sale.

Guidelines and General Information

1.  A product can be classified as a medicament under heading 30.03 or 30.04 if it satisfies the following:


2. The following information will help in determining the tariff classification of medicaments consistent with decisions of the Canadian International Trade Tribunal (CITT) and the Federal Court of Appeal. In this memorandum the word "medicament" may include natural health products.

3.  Definitions:

an illness of a trivial nature
having remedial properties, helping to cure
dietetic foods
foods prepared to meet the particular nutritional needs of people whose assimilation and metabolism of foods are modified, or for whom a particular effect is obtained by a controlled intake of foods or individual nutrients. They may be formulated for people suffering from physiological disorders or for healthy people with additional needs
an unhealthy condition; a particular malady
substance(s) taken into the body to maintain life and growth
[a] substance used in curative treatment
tending to prevent disease or other misfortune
curative; of the healing art

4. In their decisions, the CITT and the Federal Court of Appeal made a number of observations and drew certain conclusions in order to classify medicaments in the Harmonized System (HS) as follows:

5. Throat pastilles or cough drops can be classified under heading 30.04 when put up in measured doses or in forms or packaging for retail sale provided they contain a medicinal ingredient(s) such that each pastille or cough drop has a therapeutic or prophylactic use.

6. While national health authorities may define medicaments differently, vitamins and vitamin preparations have therapeutic and prophylactic uses. Vitamins have been proven effective in the treatment and prevention of certain diseases (e.g. vitamin C for scurvy and vitamin B12 for pernicious anaemia) and can thus be classified as a medicament. The vitamins considered as medicaments do not include the goods provided for in heading 29.36, unless they are put up in measured doses or in forms or packaging for retail sale for a therapeutic or prophylactic purpose.

7. If a vitamin, or vitamin preparation, is ingested to reverse or prevent (therapeutic or prophylactic) a deficiency that may lead to a disease, illness, or ailment, it follows that the purpose of ingesting the product is to reverse or prevent that malady. It is suggestive though not conclusive in all cases that such vitamin products, intended for human or animal use, are medicaments.

8. Declaring that a product is a medicament does not make it so for tariff classification purposes. There must be some evidence to support such a claim. Trade or technical publications issued by the manufacturer or producer can help in making a determination. Similarly, technical papers published in professional journals and authored by health practitioners may also provide information about a product’s therapeutic or prophylactic uses. This includes an opinion of an expert or specialist in the particular disease, illness or ailment.

9. Goods such as certain traditional natural health products, which are considered by some to be medicaments, are excluded from headings 30.03 and 30.04. For example, diabetic or fortified foods, food supplements for general health and well-being and tonic beverages (tonic wine with herbs) etc., are specifically excluded (see legal Note 1 to Chapter 30) even though they may be considered a medicament by their use and reputation in traditional herbal medicine.

General Information

10. If the label of a product does not provide the necessary information to determine if a product has therapeutic or prophylactic properties, or if the product’s therapeutic or prophylactic benefits are not clear, the importer must provide the necessary information.

11. Useful information on the therapeutic or prophylactic purpose of a medicament might be found in a recognized text, such as a publication mentioned in Schedule B of the Food and Drugs Act the Compendium of Pharmaceuticals and Specialties (CPS), the Merck Index, or a recognized peer reviewed medical paper, etc. Recognized peer reviewed papers are articles in recognized journals of medicine, such as the International Journal of Medicine, which have been reviewed by a qualified individual. Not all technical papers published in recognized journals are peer reviewed. Papers that are not peer reviewed may need verification.

12. For this policy, the meaning of the term “professional medical practitioner” is broadly defined. The term refers not only to physicians, but also to chiropractors, dentists, naturopaths, nurses, pharmacists, physical therapists, etc.

13. While conditions such as tension headaches, insomnia, gastrointestinal disorder, external wounds and other maladies may not be considered true diseases or illnesses, they constitute various forms of disorders or ailments.

14. Additional information, such as drug product monographs, can be found on Health Canada's Web site. Drug product monographs identify the recommended use or purpose for ingredients based on Health Canada's Natural Health Products Directorate’s evaluation of the safety and efficacy data.

15. In view of the CITT decisions upon which this policy is based, Canada is not able to apply the HS Explanatory Notes, relating to throat pastilles, and three Compendium Opinions, as follows:

16. While the Harmonized System Committee of the World Customs Organization has generally classified natural health products in heading 21.06, in 2012 they classified a product based on hops and valerian in heading 30.04; this is reflected in:

Additional Information

17.   For certainty regarding the tariff classification of a product, importers may request an advance ruling. Details on how to make such a request are found in CBSA Memorandum D11-11-3, Advance Rulings for Tariff Classification.

18.   For more information, call contact the CBSA Border Information Service (BIS):
Calls within Canada & the United States (toll free): 1-800-461-9999
Calls outside Canada & the United States (long distance charges apply):
1-204-983-3550 or 1-506-636-5064

TTY: 1-866-335-3237

Contact Us online (webform)
Contact Us at the CBSA website


Issuing office:
Trade and Anti-dumping Programs Directorate
Headquarters file:
F258860/HS 3004.90
Legislative references:
Customs Tariff
Food and Drugs Act
Other references:
World Customs Organization
Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System (HS) Fifth edition (2012)
Superseded memorandum D:
D10-14-30 dated October 13, 2006
Date modified: