Advice for travellers bringing medications into Australia or taking medications out of Australia

Information here is presented as a series of “Frequently Asked Questions” and is intended to be a general guide to the requirements for the importation and exportation of medicines for personal use.

Page last updated: 06 December 2013

Medicines brought into and taken out of Australia may be subject to controls under the Customs (Prohibited Imports) Regulations 1956 or the Customs (Prohibited Exports) Regulations 1958. In some cases the import and export of such medicines may be prohibited unless you hold a written authorisation issued by the Australian Government Department of Health or another agency. In other cases you do not need a written authorisation but the importation is still subject to certain conditions.

This information is advisory in nature and does not replace any relevant considerations that must be made under any legislation.

I am travelling to Australia by plane or ship and need to bring my medication with me. What do I need to do?

Provided that your medication IS NOT subject to regulation 5H (or in certain circumstances regulation 5G) of the import regulations you can bring it into Australia for the purpose of treating your own medical condition or treating a passenger who is under your care, provided that you have a prescription or a letter from your doctor to confirm that the medicine was prescribed by a medical practitioner. So that you comply with other Australian legislation covering therapeutic products you should ensure that the maximum amount of medicine you bring is equivalent to 3 months’ supply at the maximum dose recommended by the manufacturer. Read on further to determine if your medicine may be controlled under a regulation that requires a written permit to bring it into Australia for personal use.

You cannot bring medicines that are subject to regulation 5H of the Customs (Prohibited Imports) Regulations into Australia unless you hold a permit. Medicines subject to this level of import control include anabolic steroids and some other substances. If you intend to bring medications containing any of the substances listed in the table below you should follow the instructions to apply for a permit.

Substances subject to regulation 5H (Schedule 8) of the import regulations. Incoming travellers require a permit to import that must be issued before arrival.

The Office of Chemical Safety (OCS) is the responsible agency for considering requests to import the following substances:

  • Anabolic/Androgenic substances

A list of prohibited imports is available on the OCS website to help identify substances considered to be anabolic/androgenic.

See the heading further down the page titled “I need to bring an anabolic/androgenic substance into Australia. What do I have to do?”

Contact for further information:
Office of Chemical Safety
Fax: 02 6289 2500
Email: tmu

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The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) is the responsible agency for considering requests to import the following substances:

Contact for further information:
Therapeutic Goods Administration
Freecall: 1800 020 653
Phone: 02 6232 8101
Email: eps

  • Abortifacients, that is, substances that purport to produce abortion.
  • Aminophenazone (aminopyrine) (4-dimethylamino-2, 3-dimethyl-1-phenyl 3-pyrazolin-5-one), derivatives of aminophenazone (aminopyrine) (4 dimethylamino-2, 3-dimethyl-1-phenyl-3-pyrazolin-5-one) (including dipyrone) and preparations containing aminophenazone (aminopyrine) (4 dimethylamino-2, 3-dimethyl-1-phenyl-3-pyrazolin-5-one) or derivatives of aminophenazone (aminopyrine) (4-dimethylamino-2, 3 dimethyl 1 phenyl-3-pyrazolin-5-one) (including dipyrone).
  • Aphrodisiacs, that is to say, cantharides, cantharidin and yohimbine, preparations containing cantharides, cantharidin or yohimbine, and any other substance or preparation that is, or is likely to be, productive, or is capable of being converted into a substance that is, or is likely to be, productive, of effects substantially of the same character or nature as, or analogous to, those produced by cantharides, cantharidin or yohimbine.
  • Bithionol (2, 2-thiobis (4, 6-dichlorophenol)) and preparations containing bithionol (2, 2-thiobis (4, 6-dichlorophenol)).
  • 5-bromo-4-chlorosalicylanilide and preparations containing 5 bromo 4 chlorosalicylanilide.
  • Buniodyl sodium (bunamiodyl) (3-butyramido-a-ethyl-2, 4, 6 triiodocinnamic acid sodium salt) and preparations containing buniodyl sodium (bunamiodyl) (3-butyramido-a-ethyl-2, 4, 6-triiodocinnamic acid sodium salt).
  • Cinchophen methyl ester (methyl-2-phenylcinchoninate) and preparations containing cinchophen methyl ester (methyl-2-phenylcinchoninate).
  • Fenticlor (2, 2-thiobis (4-chlorophenol)) and preparations containing fenticlor (2, 2-thiobis (4-chlorophenol)).
  • Food, drink and oral medicine for human consumption and preparations (including essences and extracts) used in the manufacture of food, drink or oral medicine for human consumption that contain—
    • (a) glycol or a derivative of a glycol other than propylene glycol; or
    • (b) calamus or oil of calamus.
  • (2-Isopropyl-4-pentenoyl) urea and preparations containing (2 isopropyl 4 pentenoyl) urea.
  • Laetrile and preparations containing laetrile.
  • Preparations that purport to be a remedy for drunkenness, alcoholic habit or drug habit.
  • 3, 3, 4, 5-Tetrachlorosalicylanilide and preparations containing 3, 3, 4, 5 tetrachlorosalicylanilide.
  • Thalidomide and preparations containing thalidomide.
  • Triparanol and preparations containing triparanol.
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In addition to the above, certain substances such as erythropoietin, gonadotrophins, growth hormones and darbepoetin alfa are controlled under regulation 5G of the import regulations. If you are a sports competitor or managing a sports competitor there are no exemptions to the requirement for having a permit. If you intend to bring any substances subject to regulation 5G of the import regulations you should review the detail of the regulations to determine the extent of the controls or seek further information. The Therapeutic Goods Administration is the agency responsible for considering requests for permission to import these substances.

If you are in any doubt regarding whether the medicine you intend to import may be captured by the above list, you should contact the agency nominated under “Further information”.

I need to bring an anabolic/androgenic substance into Australia. What do I have to do?

You will need to obtain a permit before entering Australia. To apply for a permit you need to provide the Office of Chemical Safety with a signed letter on official letterhead from your prescribing doctor, detailing:

  • Prescribing doctors name
  • Prescribing doctors address, telephone, fax and email contact details
  • Patient’s full name and date of birth
  • Name of medicine, including active drug substance
  • Strength of medicine
  • Dosage regime
  • A statement that the named patient has been prescribed the specified medicine to treat an ongoing medical condition.

You should also provide:

  • your planned arrival and departure dates in Australia and the country/s you are travelling from and returning to
  • your full contact details

Requests for permits can be sent to the Office of Chemical Safety.

OCS contact details
Fax 02 6289 2500
Email tmu

Are there any quarantine restrictions that apply to medicines?

Medicines containing biological materials or derived from biological materials may be prohibited from import without permission from the Department of Agriculture. Human and animal vaccines are examples of such products. You should contact the Department of Agriculture for additional information

Department of Agriculture contact details
Website: daff
Freecall: 02 6272 3933

What happens if my medication runs out while I am visiting Australia?

If the medication you require is a prohibited import, you cannot import additional quantities by mail. You should consult a local doctor. If the medication is not approved in Australia and there is no suitable alternative, your doctor may contact the Experimental Products Section in the Therapeutic Goods Administration for consideration under the Special Access Scheme (SAS).

Special Access Scheme contact details
Freecall 1800 020 653
Phone 02 6232 8101
Email eps

A local doctor may be authorised to import the medication on your behalf.

Therapeutic goods that are not prohibited imports, are not injectables of human or animal origin, and in the case of prescription medicines are the subject of a prescription by an Australian registered doctor, may be personally imported for the personal use of the importer or a member of the importer’s immediate family in certain quantities. Further information is available form the Therapeutic Goods Administration in relation to personal importation under the Therapeutic Goods Regulations 1990.

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What should I do when I arrive in Australia with medicines for personal use?

  • Comply with all requirements of the Australian Customs Service in relation to declaring medicines you are bringing into Australia.
  • For all medicines that you are carrying, ensure that you have a prescription or written authorisation, showing that the medicine is for treatment of your medical condition.
  • For medicines containing a substance requiring a permission from the Office of Chemical Safety (for example anabolic/androgenic steroids) or the Therapeutic Goods Administration, produce your permit permitting you to bring the medicine into Australia.
  • For any medicine subject to quarantine requirements, show your import permit to bring the product into Australia.
  • Retain the documents relating to your medicines throughout your visit and have them available to present again at departure on request by Customs or Quarantine officers.
  • Further information about importing medicines for personal use may be found on the Therapeutic Goods Administration website.

What do I need to do when I leave Australia?

Any remaining quantities of medicine brought in by visitors should be taken out of Australia on departure.

Make sure your medicine is in the original packaging and with any dispensing labels intact.

Documents relating to the importation of a medicine must be available for inspection on departure.

I am travelling overseas and need to take medication with me. What do I need to do?

For prescription medicines, a doctor's prescription or letter should be presented on request to the Australian Customs Service to confirm that the drugs are required for your medical treatment or another person under your care.

For non-prescription medicines, you don’t have to present a prescription, however there are limits on the amount that you can take with you.

To avoid breaching import restrictions or laws of overseas countries you should contact the embassy/consulate of all of the countries you will be visiting and confirm any special requirements (for example number of doses permitted).

Some countries do not allow certain drugs to be imported regardless of the documentation held. It is important that you check the importation requirements of the countries you will be visiting before you leave Australia.

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