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.

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Taking or sending medicine overseas may be illegal

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

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

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

Taking medicine 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
  • 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, print and fill in the Medicine Export Declaration form. Take it with you when you go through customs.

  1. Leave the medicine in the same packaging it was bought in.
  2. Make sure you don’t take more than the legal amount overseas. Check with your doctor.

We’ll do our best to answer your questions about travelling with PBS medicine. Call the PBS taking or sending medicine overseas line.

Sending medicine overseas

When it’s legal

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

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

Posting medicine instead of packing 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 the medicine is for your personal use
  • how much of the medicine you use
  1. Leave the medicine in the same packaging it was bought in.
  2. Stick a customs declaration to your parcel. It must say it contains prescription medicine for your personal use. You can get this sticker from any post office.
  3. Make sure you don’t send more than the legal amount. Check with your doctor.

We’ll do our best to answer your 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 take them overseas with you 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 be able to get your PBS medicine in the country you’re visiting. Before you leave, check with your doctor to make sure you have enough for your trip.

If you run out while you’re away, there are 2 ways you may get your medicine while overseas.

1. Get it sent to you from Australia

You need to consider how long you have left of your trip and how soon you’ll run out of medicine before you get medicine sent to you.

Before you get medicine sent:

  • check with Customs that the medicine you need isn’t a prohibited export
  • make sure it’s legal to import into the country you’re in

The embassy, high commission or consulate in Australia of the country you’re in will know these details.

Contact your doctor in Australia and ask them to:

  • issue a non-PBS prescription of your medicine, and
  • send the script to your pharmacist

Then contact your pharmacist and ask them to:

  • fill the script
  • send the medicine to you in the country you’re in
  • include a letter with the medicine that says it’s a non-PBS prescription

You‘ll need to pay your pharmacist for the medicine and the cost of sending it to you. As this is a non-PBS prescription, the cost may be different to what you normally pay. The cost won’t count towards your PBS Safety Net.

2. Go to a doctor in the country you’re in

You might prefer to ask a doctor in the country you’re in to prescribe the medicine you need. Take the packaging of the medicine you’re going to run out of with you. That way the doctor can verify the medicine is for you. They can also see the dose and strength of the medicine you need. 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 all these medicines are:

  • safe to take
  • 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.

Related subjects

Page last updated: 18 January 2018