Travelling overseas with PBS medicine

The Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) lowers the cost of prescription medicines for all Australians and some visitors.

There are strict rules about when it’s legal to take or send PBS medicines out of Australia.

If you need help to translate this information, call the Translating and Interpreting Service.

Taking or sending them overseas may be illegal

It’s illegal to take or send medicines overseas to sell or to give to friends or family members. It can also harm the person who takes the medicine.

If you illegally take or send a PBS medicine overseas, you risk:

  • a fine of up to $5,000
  • 2 years in prison, or
  • both of these

Taking them with you

When it’s legal

If you plan to take a PBS medicine with you on your trip, make sure it’s:

  • legal to have in the country you’re going to
  • legal to take out of Australia

Before you go

  1. Check with the country’s embassy, high commission or consulate if the medicine is legal there.
  2. Get a letter from your doctor to take with you on the trip. It should say:
  • what the medicine is
  • that it’s for your personal use
  • how much of it you use.

If you can’t do this:

  1. Leave the medicine in the same packaging it was in when you bought it.
  2. Make sure you don’t go over the legal amount of it to take overseas. Check this with your doctor.

If you have questions about travelling with PBS medicine, call the PBS taking or sending medicine overseas line.

Sending them overseas

When it’s legal

It’s only legal to send PBS medicines overseas for:

  • your own use, or
  • the use of someone travelling with you

Posting a medicine instead of packing it is a way to avoid:

  • taking it through a country where it’s illegal
  • carrying too much of it

Before you post it

  1. Make sure the medicine is legal in the country you’re sending it to. Check this with their embassy, high commission or consulate.
  2. Get a letter from your doctor to take with you on the trip. It should say:
  • what the medicine is
  • that it’s for your personal use
  • how much of it you use.
  1. Leave the medicine in the same packaging it was in when you bought it.
  2. Stick a customs declaration to your parcel saying it contains prescription medicine for your personal use. You can get this sticker from any post office.
  3. Make sure you don’t go over the legal amount of it to send overseas. Check this with your doctor.

If you have questions about sending PBS medicine overseas, call the PBS taking or sending medicine overseas line.

Prohibited exports

Some PBS medicines are prohibited exports. This means:

  • you can’t send them overseas
  • you need written approval from the Department of Health to take them overseas with you
  • you can only do this if:
    • it’s for your own use
    • you physically carry them

To find out more:

If you run out of medicine while you’re away

You may not get your medicine overseas. Before you leave, check with your doctor to make sure you have enough for your trip.

If you run out while you’re away, you have 2 options.

  1. Contact your doctor in Australia and ask for a non-PBS prescription. You can then get a pharmacist to send the medicine to you. Before you do this:
  • check with Customs that the medicine isn’t a prohibited export
  • make sure it’s legal to import into the country you’re in - you can check with their embassy, high commission or consulate in Australia
  • ask the pharmacist to include a letter that says it’s a non-PBS prescription.
  1. Go to a doctor in the country you’re in and ask them to prescribe it. The medicine may cost less if the country has a Reciprocal Health Care Agreement with us.

Read more travel tips on the smartraveller website.

Buying medicines online

You can only get PBS medicines:

  • from pharmacies
  • in Australia

The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) checks that all these medicines:

  • are safe to take
  • are genuine

Anything you buy online won’t have TGA approval. If you buy these products you may:

  • break the law
  • waste your money
  • risk your health

Read more on the TGA website.

We’re testing a new website design. Try it out and tell us what you think. Read more about changes to this site.

Page last updated: 21 June 2017