Travelling with PBS Medicines

Travellers often ask us about taking prescription medications overseas and, while it is illegal to take or send PBS medication out of Australia unless it is for your personal use (or for the use of someone travelling with you); there are some guidelines which you should follow:

  • Contact the embassy or consultate of the country you are visiting to ensure the medicine is legal there
  • Carry a letter from your doctor detailing what the medicine is and how much you will be taking for your personal use
  • Leave the medication in its original packaging which includes the label (with your name, the name of the prescribing doctor, the drug and dosage and the cost of the medication).
  • Carry essential medications in your in-cabin luggage in case your suitcase is misdirected or lost.

Australian PBS prescriptions cannot be filled outside of this country so it is advisable to carry enough prescription medicine with you in case of delays.

Taking PBS medicines overseas

Travellers taking PBS medicines overseas should make sure the medicine is legal in the country they are travelling to by contacting the relevant embassy, high commission or consulate before leaving Australia.

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

  • Contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country you are visiting to make sure the medicine is legal there
  • Carry 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
  • Leave the medicine in its original packaging.

There are restrictions on the amount of PBS medicines you can take overseas. Check with your doctor before you travel.

Customs may detain any medicine suspected of being illegally exported. It is in your best interests to have a letter from your doctor 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, a Medicine Export Declaration may be enough to let Customs know the medicine is for your personal use. People found to be illegally exporting PBS medicines overseas may be prosecuted.

Call the Medicare travelling with PBS Medicine enquiry line on 1800 500 147 (call charges may apply).

Sending PBS medicines overseas

You are allowed to send PBS medicines overseas for your personal use, or the use of someone who will be travelling with you, when you are travelling through a country where the medicine is illegal, or when you would need to carry a large amount. PBS medicine can’t be sent overseas for the use of anybody other than the sender.

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

  • Contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country you are visiting to ensure the medicine is legal there
  • Carry 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
  • Leave the medicine in its original packaging
  • Attach a completed customs declaration (available from any post office) to your parcel disclosing the package contains prescription medicine for your personal use.
  • There are also restrictions on the amount of PBS medicine you can send overseas. Check with your doctor before you travel.
  • Customs may detain any medicine suspected of being illegally exported. It is in your best interest to have a letter from your doctor explaining what the medicine is, how much you are sending, and that it is for your personal use.

If you can’t get a letter from your doctor, a Medicine Export Declaration may be enough to let Customs know the medicine is for your personal use. People found to be illegally exporting PBS medicine overseas may be prosecuted.

Prohibited exports

PBS medicines 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 you need to send a medicine that is a prohibited export, you must get written approval from the Department of Health and Ageing.

For more information call the Australian Customs Service on 1300 363 263 or email information@customs.gov.au

Once you are overseas

Before you travel, check with your doctor to make sure you have enough medicine for your trip, as you may not be able to get your medicine overseas. Remember you should not go over the limit of PBS medicine you are allowed to take overseas.

If your trip has been extended and you need more medicine while you are away, you have two options available.

  1. Contact your doctor in Australia, and if appropriate, get a non-PBS prescription for the medicine. This non-subsidised prescription medicine can be supplied by a pharmacist in Australia and arranged to be sent to you. If you do this, we suggest you contact:
    • the Australian Customs Service before the medicine is sent or taken overseas to ensure the medicine is not a prohibited export and can be legally exported
    • the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country the medicine is being sent to, to make sure the medicine can be legally imported into that country.

So Customs know the medicine is not a PBS medicine, you can ask your pharmacist to include a letter stating the medicine has not been subsidised.

  1. Go to a doctor in the country you are in and get your medicine there. The Australian Government has Reciprocal Health Care Agreements with certain countries to help cover the cost of some medical treatment.
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