Leaving Australia

Taking medicines or medical devices out of Australia

Issues surrounding taking medicines or medical devices overseas can cause a great deal of stress for travellers, especially elderly travellers, who often have pre-existing health conditions and increased health concerns. There are no restrictions on taking medicines for your own personal use out of Australia. However, you should be aware that there are some restrictions on what medicines you can take into certain countries.

Before you travel

Before you travel, follow these simple rules:

  1. Talk to your doctor or a travel medicine specialist and discuss any prescription or over the counter medicines that you will need to take with you; take only those you require for your own personal use. Remember to talk about the complementary medicines you use as well.
  2. If you or your doctor have any doubts about whether there are any restrictions on taking the medicines you need into the countries you are planning to visit, you should contact the appropriate Embassy or Consulate of the country you are visiting to ensure the medicine is legal there. For some countries you need permission for codeine, which is in some Australian over-the-counter medicines.
  3. Carry a letter from your prescriber with your prescription medicines. The letter should include the name of the medicine, how much you are taking, and state that the medicine is for your personal use.
  4. All prescription medicines should be kept in their original container displaying your name and dosage requirements, and carried in hand luggage to prevent their loss.

Take an adequate supply

Take enough prescription and over-the-counter medicine for the entire trip, plus some extra in case of travel disruption or delay. This is because a prescription from your Australian doctor cannot be filled overseas, and familiar over-the-counter medicines might not be available in the countries you are visiting.

Carrying or sending Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) supplied medicines overseas that are not for your own personal use (or for the use of someone travelling from Australia with you) is illegal and can attract a penalty of up to $5000 and/or 2 years imprisonment.

Customs authorities have the power to detain any medicine that they suspect you are taking or sending overseas for the use of somebody else. For more information phone the Medicare Australia's Travelling with PBS Medicine enquiry line 1800 500 147 or visit the Department of Human Services website.

When travelling, you need to obtain customs clearance from the appropriate consulate or embassy for certain medicines, even though they are legally available in Australia. Medicines to be careful about include:

  • medicines containing codeine
  • strong painkillers prescribed from a Pain Unit
  • prescribed medicines of addiction
  • controlled drugs.