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Travelling with medicines and medical devices
Did you know that restrictions apply to medicines and medical devices when you're leaving or coming into Australia, and that different restrictions may apply in other countries?
Watch this video to find out:
- what you need to do when preparing for your trip, including things you should discuss with your doctor
- what to do when going through border control
- exemptions and requirements that may apply when coming into Australia.
Travelling with medicines and medical devices
Are you planning to travel with medicines and medical devices?
Don't end up with an unpleasant surprise.
You need to know about the rules and requirements that apply to travellers.
Why do you need to be careful about travelling with medicines and medical devices?
Australia has regulations about carrying medicines and medical devices for your own use in and out of the country.
Taking medicines and medical devices out of Australia
Different countries have different laws about what can be taken in and out.
- Check that the medicine or medical device is allowed in the destination country. You can do this by consulting the country's Consulate or Embassy
- Some medicines that are legally available in Australia are not allowed in other countries
- Some medicines cannot be carried into certain countries without a permit even though they can be legally used there
- You may need to apply for customs clearance for some medicines
- If your medication is illegal at your destination, ask your doctor about alternatives
Be aware that restrictions may also apply to complementary medicines.
Do you want to take vitamins or supplements on your trip?
In Australia, Vitamin D may be available at the supermarket, only from a pharmacy or only on prescription, depending on how large the dosage is.
There may also be differences in other countries and you need to know what applies to your medication.
Talk to your doctor
If you need prescription or over-the-counter medicine while you're travelling:
- Check what medication you need
- Normally prescriptions from Australia cannot be filled overseas
- Some over-the-counter medicines may not be available elsewhere
- Don't forget to mention to your doctor any complementary medicines you may be taking
- Make sure you have sufficient quantity of your medication
- Be aware
- it is illegal to take some medicines (such as Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme medicines) out of Australia if they are not for your use or for the use of the person travelling with you.
Carry a letter
When travelling overseas with medicines and medical devices, it is a good idea to have accompanying documentation from your doctor. If you are carrying complementary medicines, ask your doctor to include these in the letter.
Where possible it is best to take a letter and your prescription.
You can find a sample letter on the Australian Government's Travel Secure website.
Keep medicines and medical devices in their original packaging
Doing this whenever possible makes the products easy for customs officials to identify.
Carry medicine and medical devices in your hand luggage
Medicines are exempt from the 100ml limit on liquids, aerosols and gels.
Note: Hypodermic needles are prohibited unless it is medically necessary for you to carry them.
They should be accompanied with proof that you require them and be kept (in your hand luggage) with the medication they will be used to administer.
Bringing medicines and medical devices into Australia
Australia has some programs in place to assist you when coming into the country with medicines and medical devices.
Your medicine or device may be covered by the Traveller's exemption or
You may belong in a special category.
If you do not fit under one of these groups you may need an import permit.
The Traveller's exemption
The travellers exemption allows you to bring certain prescribed medicines and medical devices into the country without needing special permission.
- medications that lower blood cholesterol, blood pressure, blood glucose and/or gastric acid
- contraception medications (birth control)
- blood glucose monitoring devices, and
- medications to aid sleep (sedatives).
Traveller's exemption - requirements
- The medicine or device must be for your use, or for a passenger in your care
- You cannot sell or supply the products to another person
- Keep the product in original packaging with dispensing labels (if possible)
- Carry the prescription or written authorisation showing that it is for your use, or for a person in your care
- Carry no more than three months supply at the maximum dose
- Take any remaining medicines or devices with you when you leave Australia
- Comply with requests and directions from customs officers.
If you are importing substances containing animals or plants listed as endangered species - Australian Government Department of the Environment.
If you are importing substances containing biological material (human, animal, plant or bacteria) - Australian Government Department of Agriculture.
For more information and website links, see the Helpful links for travellers page on our website.
Special categories apply to:
- Athletes and members of visiting sporting teams
- Medications containing substances subject to import controls, and
- Injections containing material of human or animal origin.
Check the TGA website and, if necessary, apply for the correct permissions.
Helpful links for travellers
- Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
Get travel advice on the country you are visiting
- PBS medicare
See Medicare's guidelines for Travelling with Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme medicines
See Smartraveller's guidelines for Travelling with prescription medicines
- Travel secure
Check the restrictions and exemptions for liquids, aerosols and gels on international flights
- Department of Home Affairs
See the Department of Home Affairs guide to arriving in and departing from Australia
A final message from the TGA
Be careful about buying medicines and medical devices overseas.
Medicines and devices from overseas may not have been approved for sale in Australia. There is no guarantee they meet the same standards of quality, safety and efficacy as products approved for supply by us, the TGA.
For more information about the risks involved, see our website.
You can find out more:
1800 020 653
More information from the TGA
Explore the TGA website and find information related to this presentation with the links below.
These educational materials are provided by the TGA (a part of the Department of Health) solely for the purpose of providing general education on the TGA regulatory scheme. The materials should not be taken to be a detailed description of the scheme, or advice on the application of the therapeutic goods legislation in particular cases. Nor should they be taken to be statements of policy.
People requiring information or advice on the application of the therapeutic goods legislation in particular cases should make their own enquiries.
Whilst due care has been taken in their preparation, the Department of Health cannot guarantee, and assumes no legal liability or responsibility for the accuracy, currency or completeness of the information contained in these materials.
These materials are based on the scheme as it is in February 2014.