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If you are considering purchasing medication from outside the U.S., be aware that, in most circumstances, it is technically not legal for individuals to import prescription drugs; however, U.S. government officials have stated that individuals who order non-controlled prescription drugs from Canada or other foreign sources (up to a three-month supply) for their own use are not being pursued or prosecuted.
Is it legal to order medication for import to Australia? How can Australians order online safely?
Importing medicine for personal use in Australia is legal but with important caveats. Australia’s government warns consumers against ordering medicine online because of the dangers of rogue online pharmacies. PharmacyChecker helps Australians and consumers internationally to avoid dangerous websites by providing the information they need to order from safe international online pharmacies.
Australia’s Personal Importation Scheme
Australia has what is called its personal importation scheme, under which “individuals can legally import most therapeutic goods for personal use.” In other words, many drugs and medical devices can legally be purchased overseas for use by an individual or their family members. For those Americans reading this post, “scheme” is not something shady. “Scheme” is merely a word used in place of “system.”
Under Australia’s regulations, you can import a 3-month supply of medications without approval from the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), but you must comply with the following:
The medication is for your own treatment or the treatment of your immediate family; and you don’t sell or give the medicine to any other person.
You keep the medicines in the original packaging with dispensing labels on them.
The medication is not restricted under Australian Customs controls or quarantine rules and it is not a controlled substance.
The medication is not an injection that contains material of human or animal origin (insulin is an exception).
The total amount of medication imported within a period of 12-months does not exceed a 15-month supply. I found this to be confusing. It appears to mean that if you go a little over the three-month supply, then the government is not concerned that you are importing for re-sale, which is illegal – but keep to that 15-month maximum supply!
You must have a valid Australian prescription for medications in Schedule 4 or 8 of the Poisons Standard.
How do Australians import more than a 3-month supply and restricted drugs?
If you want to import more than a 3-month supply of medication in Australia, then you must have an Australian-registered doctor apply to the TGA for approval of the Special Access Scheme. This special access scheme is also used for obtaining access to controlled and unapproved therapeutic goods in Australia, however this is for exceptional clinical circumstances.
The TGA wisely warns people that the government cannot guarantee the safety and quality of drugs imported online. They urge consumers who choose to import drugs from overseas to know about the drug they are ordering, its source, and the legal requirements for importation.
So how can you import your medication safely from trusted companies?
If you decide to import your prescription medication from an international online pharmacy, we strongly recommend that you only buy from websites that are accredited in the PharmacyChecker Verification Program.
PharmacyChecker was established in 2003 to help patients find qualified online pharmacies in the U.S., Canada and abroad. PharmacyChecker is also a valuable resource for finding the lowest drug prices available online.
Peer-reviewed and independent research shows that as long as patients search PharmacyChecker-verified pharmacies for medications purchased online, they receive lawfully-manufactured and high quality medication.
Are drug costs an issue in Australia?
In Australia, people don’t have the same problem accessing affordable medicine as they do in the U.S. However, citizens and others living in Australia can fall through the cracks of the healthcare system and need lower-cost options. According to the Commonwealth Fund, 12% of Australians who take two medications or more report not filling a prescription or skipping does: in the U.S. the figure is 24%.
One study from the Grattan Institute has shown that drug prices are higher in Australia than in the UK, for instance. Furthermore, some drugs remain outside the country’s regulatory scope and can be far more expensive than therapeutically equivalent drugs. For those medicines, patients may need lower prices from other countries.
In some cases, Australian health care providers may want their patients to obtain a drug that is not available domestically, precipitating the need for an international pharmacy.
How can Australians order medication from accredited international online pharmacies?
See our Ask PharmacyChecker answer: How can I safely order medication from an online pharmacy?
Why Patients Trust the PharmacyChecker Verification Program
Online pharmacies are verified for high standards of online pharmacy practice before acceptance into the PharmacyChecker Verification Program and listing on PharmacyChecker.com. If the website and pharmacy successfully pass our evaluation, the website is approved and provided a valid PharmacyChecker Seal to place on their website.
Qualifications and credentials are re-checked on an ongoing basis. The program is run by the Director of Pharmacy Verification and Information, Shivam Patel, PharmD, BSPS, RPh — a licensed pharmacist in Massachusetts.
The following is a sample list of important criteria we check for all online pharmacy applicants:
Prescription orders dispensed by licensed pharmacies verified by PharmacyChecker
Requires valid prescription
Meets website security requirements
Publishes contact information on website for customer service
Pharmacist consultation offered to consumers
Quantities marketed on website restricted to a maximum of 3 months' supply at a time
Disclosure of pharmacy location to consumer prior to purchase
Marketing claims checked for accuracy
Controlled drugs, such as Vicodin and Xanax, are not sold internationally
PharmacyChecker.com is frequently cited and recommended by popular and well-respected media channels, organizations, and consumer health experts, including AARP, CNN, The New York Times; The People’s Pharmacy and the Public Interest Research Group; and Elisabeth Rosenthal, MD, Editor-in-Chief of Kaiser Health News and Roger Bate, PhD, drug safety expert at the American Enterprise Institute.
Read more on Ask PharmacyChecker
Do you have questions or concerns about ordering your medicines online for shipping to Australia? We’re here to help.
Comment below or ask a question by logging in to My PharmacyChecker.Updated June 10, 2019