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Leaving Australia

27 June 2016

Taking medicines and medical devices with you

Taking medicines and medical devices with you when you leave Australia can be stressful, especially if you have a lot. This is true for both international tourists leaving Australia and Australians going overseas.

While there are only a few restrictions on what medicines and medical devices you can take with you when you leave Australia, other countries have different laws on what you can bring in. It's important that you pay attention to what you're taking and where you're going to make sure you don't end up in trouble.

Make sure that you know as much as possible about staying safe and healthy while overseas. Find out more information about staying healthy and travelling with medicines to specific countries at the Smartraveller website.

Before you travel

When taking your medicines and medical devices out of Australia, follow these simple rules:

  1. Talk to your doctor or travel medicine specialist about any medicines or medical devices you are taking with you. This includes over-the-counter and complementary medicines. Make sure you only take them for your personal use.
  2. If you or your doctor have any doubts about what you can take to your destination, you should contact the Embassy or Consulate of the countries you are visiting. Some medicines widely available in Australia, like those containing codeine, require permission to bring into other countries.
  3. Carry a letter from your doctor detailing any prescription medicines you are taking with you. The letter should include the name of the medicine, how much you are taking and that it is for your personal use. The Department of Human Services Travelling with PBS medicines web page provides a template letter you can give to your doctor.
  4. Take your medicines in the original packaging so they can be easily identified.

Take enough for your whole trip

You should always take enough of your medicines and medical devices with you plus some extra in case of a delay or unexpected circumstances. This is because it can be hard to get replacement medicines overseas for a range of reasons, such as:

  • Your prescription may not be valid overseas
  • Doctors and other medical professionals may not speak your language
  • Your medicines may be restricted in other countries
  • Your medicines may be unavailable, particularly in rural areas and less developed countries.

If you are going to be away for an extended period of time you should talk to your doctor about options for accessing medicines or medical devices overseas.

Medicines to be careful with

Some medicines prescribed in Australia may be restricted or banned in other countries. Be careful if you need to travel with:

  • Medicines containing codeine
  • Strong painkillers prescribed from a pain specialist or hospital
  • Prescribed medicines of addiction
  • Controlled drugs – ask your doctor or pharmacist.

Things to Remember

Medicines supplied under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) are subsidised by the Australian Government for personal use only. Carrying PBS medicines overseas with you for someone other than you or an immediate family member is illegal and carries penalties of up to $5,000 and/or 2 years imprisonment.

Customs authorities have the power to seize any medicines they suspect you are taking overseas for somebody else.

You must have customs clearance for some medicines before entering some countries. Contact the appropriate Embassy or Consulate of the countries you are visiting for more information.