Revised: 8 October 2018


Personal Importation of Medicines

What is personal importation?
Bringing medicines into New Zealand on your person or in your luggage
Having prescription medicines for personal use sent from an overseas supplier
Reasonable excuse
Adulterated medicines
Classification of medicines in New Zealand
Questions about importing medicines?
Contact us

See also: Importing Medicines - Frequently Asked Questions

When you enter New Zealand with medicines or arrange to bring medicines into New Zealand, you come under the jurisdiction of:

  • Medsafe (for medicines, medical devices, related products and herbal remedies)
  • Medicines Control (for controlled drugs used as medicines), and
  • the New Zealand Customs Service.

Medsafe regulates medicines to ensure their safety, quality and effectiveness. Medsafe discourages the importation of medicines that have not been reviewed and approved by Medsafe, as there is no assurance that such products have been manufactured safely to an acceptable level of quality, or contain an effective or safe formulation.

Occasionally, a person arriving in New Zealand may be undergoing treatment with a medicine that has not been approved by Medsafe. Under certain circumstances, travellers may bring their personal medications with them into the country.

What is personal importation?

Personal importation occurs when an individual either:

  1. Brings a medicine into New Zealand on their person (for instance passengers visiting New Zealand arriving at the airport),

  2. Arranges for a medicine to be sent to them from an overseas supplier. In most cases the medicine is sent through the post or via an international courier.

In both cases, the medicines must be used by that individual or a member of his/her immediate family and must not be sold or supplied to any other person.

The maximum quantity of prescription medicines you can import, if you have a reasonable excuse, is three months’ supply. For oral contraceptives it is six months’ supply, and for medicines that are also controlled drugs, this is one month’s supply.

You may check if your medicine is a prescription medicine in New Zealand using this link: Classification of medicines in New Zealand.

Bringing medicines into New Zealand on your person or in your luggage

If you are arriving into New Zealand and carrying prescription medicines (other than controlled drugs) either on your person or in your luggage you must ensure:

  • You declare the possession of those medicines on your incoming passenger arrival card which is lawfully required, and inspected, by the New Zealand Customs Service if the quantity of medicines is over 3 months supply or the medicine is not prescribed to you, and
  • You have a copy of the prescription from your doctor, or a letter from your doctor stating that you are being treated with the medicine(s), and
  • You carry the medicine(s) in their original containers, and
  • You have a quantity not exceeding three months supply for prescription medicines (with the exception of oral contraceptives which can be supplied in six month quantities.

Medicines that are controlled drugs must be declared on the passenger arrival card. The quantity must not exceed one months supply for controlled drugs. For additional information on controlled drugs, contact Medicines Control.

All other medicines including herbal medicines, dietary supplements and over-the-counter medicines may be carried with you without the above documentation.

Please note that anything in your possession that might be considered to be a prescription medicine or controlled drug must be declared on your incoming passenger arrival card. If in doubt, declare it.

Having prescription medicines for personal use sent from an overseas supplier

If you are having prescription medicines for personal use sent to you from overseas you will be required to prove you have “a reasonable excuse" for the importation.

Reasonable excuse

We define "a reasonable excuse" as either:

  • An original letter from a New Zealand authorised prescriber (doctor, dentist, midwife or nurse prescriber - the prescriber must be one who is authorised to prescribe these medicines to you)

  • An original prescription from a New Zealand authorised prescriber (doctor, dentist, midwife or nurse prescriber).

The letter or prescription should state why the prescriber has authorised the importation of these medicines which may not have been approved by Medsafe. The letter or prescription from the authorised prescriber must match exactly the name, strength, quantity and form of the imported prescription medicine, and must show that they are aware that they are authorising the importation of the prescription medicine from overseas.

You should be aware that your imported medicines may be detained by the New Zealand Customs Service until the prescriber’s authorisation has been verified. It would be helpful if the package’s documentation includes a copy of the authorisation letter or the prescription.

Medicines containing controlled drugs cannot be imported in this manner. Information on the restrictions on importing controlled drugs is on Medicines Control’s web page: Bringing controlled drugs into New Zealand.

Over-the-counter medicines can be imported but they must be for your personal use or for a member of your immediate family, and must not be sold or given away.

Adulterated medicines

Some medicines, particularly some Chinese herbal products, have been tested by Medsafe and found to contain undeclared prescription medicines. It is illegal to import a product adulterated with a prescription medicine, and if these are seized by Medsafe at the border they will be destroyed. The most common products that are adulterated are slimming products which contain Sibutramine, or products to help with sexual dysfunction which contain Sildenafil.

Further information on adulterated medicines

Classification of medicines in New Zealand

Every country has a different system for classifying medicines. A medicine that is available over-the-counter (ie, without requiring a prescription) in one country may be classified as a prescription medicine in New Zealand.

Check the classification of your medicine(s)

Please be aware that:

  • the substance name (the active ingredient) must be entered. Do not enter the brand name as this may be different to the name used in New Zealand.
  • medicines that are not available in New Zealand may not be included on the schedule.

Questions about importing medicines?

If you are still unsure of the classification of your medicine, please submit an enquiry using the following form: General enquiry form.

Lodge a complaint relating to the import, export, manufacture, advertising and supply of therapeutic products.

Contact us

PO Box 7772
Wellesley St

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