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Travelling Overseas With PBS Medicine

If you are planning a trip overseas, organising your medicine is one of the most important things you can do. If you require prescription medicine, it is important that you have this medicine with you so that you remain in good health while you are away.

Taking or sending PBS subsidised medicine out of Australia that is not for your own personal use or the personal use of someone travelling from Australia with you is illegal.

People who are found to be dealing with a PBS subsidised medicine in a way other than which it was meant risk a fine of up to $5,000 and/or two years imprisonment. There are also restrictions on the amount of PBS subsidised medicine you can take or send overseas. Possessing or attempting to export more than the designated quantity may result in a two year gaol term.

It is also illegal for a pharmacist to supply a PBS medicine for a person they have reason to believe is not in Australia at the time of supply.

Taking PBS Medicine Overseas

Travellers taking PBS subsidised medicine overseas are advised to check they are not carrying a substance that is considered illegal in their country of destination. Travellers should contact relevant embassies before leaving Australia .

If you are planning to take PBS medicine overseas for your own personal use or the personal use of someone travelling from Australia with you, you should:

  • contact the embassy of the country you are visiting to ensure the medicine is legal there;
  • carry or enclose a letter from your doctor detailing what the medicine is, how much you will be taking and stating that the medicine is for your personal use; and
  • leave the medicine in its original packaging.

There are also restrictions on the amount of PBS medicine you can take overseas. It is advisable to check with your doctor before you travel.

Customs may detain any medicine it suspects is being illegally exported. It is therefore in your best interest to provide documentation explaining what the medicine is, how much you are carrying, and that it is for your personal use.

If you are unable to get a letter from your doctor, Medicare Australia's Medicine Export Declaration may be sufficient to satisfy Customs that the medicine is for your personal use. People found to be illegally exporting PBS medicine overseas may be prosecuted.

Sending PBS Medicine Overseas

The legislation allows for you to send PBS medicine overseas for your own personal use, or the use of someone who will be travelling from Australia with you, in such instances as when you will be travelling via a country in which the medicine is illegal, or when you would need to carry a large amount. PBS medicine may not be sent overseas for the use of anybody other than the sender.

If you are planning to send PBS medicine overseas for your own personal use while overseas, or for the personal use of someone travelling from Australia with you, you should:

  • contact the embassy of the country you are visiting to ensure the medicine is legal there;
  • enclose with the medicine a letter from your doctor detailing what the medicine is, how much you will be taking or sending and stating that the medicine is for your personal use;
  • leave the medicine in its original packaging; and
  • attach to your parcel a completed Customs declaration available from any post office, disclosing that the package contains prescription medicine that is for your personal use.

There are also restrictions on the amount of PBS medicine you can send overseas. It is advisable to check with your doctor before you travel.

Customs may detain any medicine it suspects is being illegally exported. It is therefore in your best interest to provide documentation explaining what the medicine is, how much you are sending, and that it is for your personal use.

If you are unable to get a letter from your doctor, Medicare Australia's Medicine Export Declaration may be sufficient to satisfy Customs that the medicine is for your personal use. People found to be illegally exporting PBS medicine overseas may be prosecuted.

Prohibited Exports

A PBS subsidised medicine may be a prohibited export under the Customs (Prohibited Export) Regulations. Some prohibited exports are not legally able to leave Australia unless they are physically taken by the person travelling. If a medicine that is a prohibited export needs to be sent, written approval from the Department of Health and Ageing is required.

For more information please contact the Australian Customs Service by phoning 1300 363 263 or emailing information@customs.gov.au.

Once You Are Overseas

As you may not be able to get your medicine overseas, you should check with your doctor to ensure you have an adequate supply for your trip, minding that you do not exceed the limit of PBS medicine you are allowed to take overseas.

If your overseas trip has been extended and you require additional medicine while you are overseas you have two options available, they are:

Contact and consult your medical practitioner in Australia

Contact and consult your medical practitioner in Australia, and if appropriate, obtain a non-PBS prescription for the medicine. This non-subsidised prescription medicine can be supplied by a pharmacist in Australia and arranged to be packaged and delivered.

If this course of action is undertaken, it is suggested that you contact:

  • the Australian Customs Service prior to the medicine being sent or taken overseas to ensure that the medicine is not a prohibited export and may be legally exported; and
  • the embassy of the country to which the medicine is being sent to ensure that the medicine can be legally imported into that country.

So that Customs know the medicine is not PBS-subsidised medicine, it is recommended that you ask your pharmacist for a letter stating the medicine has not been subsidised, or, if this letter cannot be obtained, have a Medicine Export Declaration completed and enclosed with your medicine. Medicine Export Declaration (193k)

Consult a medical practitioner in the overseas destination

Consult a medical practitioner in the overseas destination and obtain medicine in that country. The Australian Government has arranged reciprocal health care agreements enabling access to health care in certain countries.

Contact Details

  • Travelling with PBS medicine enquiry line: 1800 500 147
  • Translating and Interpreting Service: 13 14 50