Travelling with medicines or medical devices into Australia
There are rules about bringing medicines and devices into Australia. Some medicines require permission to be granted by the relevant Australian Government agency before they can be brought into Australia by individuals.
If you want to bring medicines or medical devices into Australia for personal use you must check:
- If it can be brought in under the Traveller's exemption.
- If you need an import permit to bring in the medicine or medical device because it contains a substance subject to import controls.
- The special requirements for importing injections containing material of human or animal origin (except insulin).
- The special rules that apply to visiting sporting teams who are bringing medicinal products into Australia.
- The quarantine or customs restrictions on bringing medicines and medical devices into Australia.
In order to bring in medicines or medical devices under the Traveller's exemption:
- if it is a prescription medicine, you must have a prescription, or written authorisation, showing that the medicine or medical device is for the treatment of you or another passenger under your care
- if it contains a prohibited substance, you must have a prescription, or written authorisation, showing that the medicine or medical device is for the treatment of you or another passenger under your care
- where possible, keep the medicines or medical devices in their original packaging with any dispensing labels intact
- the quantity brought in must not exceed 3 months supply at the maximum dose recommended by the manufacturer
- the medicines or medical devices you bring into Australia must not be sold or supplied to any other person
- you must ensure that you comply with the requirements of the Australian Customs Service in relation to declaring medicines or medical devices you are bringing into Australia.
It's a good idea to carry medicines and medical devices in your hand luggage so you have access to them if needed. It also means you avoid any potential problems if your checked-in luggage goes missing.
Most commonly-prescribed medicines and medical devices may be brought into Australia under the Traveller's exemption. For example:
- medications that lower blood cholesterol, blood pressure, blood glucose and/or gastric acid
- contraception medications (birth control)
- blood glucose monitoring devices.
Other commonly-prescribed medicines which are considered to be prohibited substances can still be brought into Australia under the Traveller's exemption without prior approval. For example:
- opioid analgesics (painkillers)
- medications to aid sleep (sedatives).
When leaving Australia, please take your medicines and medical devices with you. Where possible, keep them in their original packaging, with any dispensing labels intact. Any documents you have relating to importing the medicines or medical devices must be available for inspection upon departure.
If you require more than a 3-month supply, you will need to obtain further supplies within Australia or arrange for further supplies to be mailed into Australia. Further supplies of medication (3 months maximum per import) can be forwarded to an individual by post. Please see the personal importation scheme for information about importing products by mail or courier into Australia for personal use.
An import permit is required for medicines which contains a substance subject to import controls which cannot be brought in under the traveller's exemption. These include anabolic/androgenic substances such as testosterone, dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), and thalidomide.
If your medication contains a substance requiring an import permit, you, not your doctor, must apply for an Inbound Traveller's Permit.
Relevant forms are available on the Australian Government Department of Health website or by contacting the Experimental Products Section.
Where such preparations are identified by Customs as prohibited imports, the goods will be seized. Import permits cannot be issued retrospectively and the goods may be destroyed by Customs.
If the medicine you wish to import is an injection that contains material of human or animal origin, you need to apply for permission to import from the TGA.
An Australian registered doctor will need to apply on your behalf for Special Access Scheme approval. If approval is granted, an approval letter is sent to the doctor.
This letter should be presented to Australian Customs upon arrival in Australia.
There are special rules that apply to visiting sporting teams who are bringing medicinal products into Australia. Sporting teams will need to compile a list of the medicinal products they intend to bring with them.
The following general rules apply when a sporting team is visiting Australia to participate in a national or international sporting event.
- Visiting sporting teams need to apply for permission to bring into Australia medicinal products:
- that contain substances that are controlled, or
- that are injections containing a substance of human or animal origin (except insulin - insulin is allowed)
Preparations should be made well in advance of the team's visit. For further information and application forms contact TMU@health.gov.au.
- In addition, the visiting sporting team MUST comply with the following
- The medicines MUST NOT be supplied (sold or given to) anyone who is not an official member of the visiting sporting team.
- The medicines MUST NOT be used in the treatment of anyone who is not an official member of visiting sporting team.
- Any unused medicines MUST be destroyed or taken out of Australia on departure.
- An official member of the visiting sporting team MUST be responsible for the control and custody of the medicines at all times while the sporting team is in Australia.
- If an individual sporting team member wishes to bring a medicine into Australia for their own personal use, the general rules for bringing medicines for personal use apply.
An official member of the visiting sporting team MUST maintain control of the medicines at all times, and
- have a list in English of the quantity and type of the medicines brought into Australia, including in the list the name and strength of the active ingredient in each medicinal product, and
- maintain a record of the use of the medicines while the sporting team is in Australia, and
- produce the list or record for inspection at the request of a Customs officer or other authorised officer
Prior quarantine clearance may be required to import any material of biological origin (human, animal, plant or bacterial). The importer should contact the Department of Agriculture to see if an import permit is required.
The TGA often receives enquiries from people who want to import Hoodia or Traditional Chinese Medicine products. Please read the brochures on these topics which are available from the Department of the Environment:
- Pills, plants and animals, a guide to complementary medicines trade and conservation
- Get the facts on Hoodia and weight loss products derived from Hoodia
The import or export of substances containing parts of animals and plants listed as endangered species require a permit issued under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act). Further information can be obtained from the Department of the Environment website.
Anyone bringing in herbal or dietary supplements from the USA should check that the product does not contain a controlled substance. Where such preparations are identified by Customs as prohibited imports, the goods will be seized. Import permits cannot be issued retrospectively and the goods may be destroyed by Customs.
Web page last updated: Wednesday, 23 April 2014