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Taking Prescription Medication Abroad

Pre-Existing ConditionsMedication AbroadFear of Flying
Prescription Medicines Aboroad

Some prescription medicines contain controlled drugs.

Most prescribed medications are fine to take abroad and, depending on your needs your GP can prescribe for up to three months (opens an NHS page). Sometimes GPs will prescribe on a precautionary basis 'if you need it'; some will write a private prescriptions for this.

NHS Advice

The NHS advice is to plan well ahead:

  • Check the rules on leaving UK and at your destination (and in reverse if you buy while abroad)
    • Types
    • Quantities
  • Take information with you:
    • Medication details - generic name and brand name
    • Name of the respective health condition

HMRC Advice

There are two main categories of medicine:

  • Those bought without prescription, these have no limits.
  • Prescribed medicine from a doctor, which are limited if a controlled drug e.g. methadone (see list below)

Average 15 Day Dosage

HMRC advise that prescribed medicines containing 'controlled drugs' have limits on the amount you can take with you. A 'controlled drug' means any drug controlled under the Misuse of Drugs legislation. If you are unsure if your medication is controlled HMRC advise to check with them. The permitted allowance for each drug is calculated on an average 15 day dosage, so for a 2 week holiday away you should be fine whatever you have been prescribed.

If the quantity you need to take is more than the permitted allowance, you must apply in writing to the Home Office for a licence.

Drugs controlled in this country are generally also controlled in other countries. Before you travel seek advice about the requirements by contacting the appropriate Embassy or High Commission in the UK.

Check List

  • Take essential medication you need for your journey packed in your hand luggage and bare in mind you could be delayed. There are limits for liquids, so some prior approval may be needed for larger quantities. See the .gov restricted items rules.
  • Keep your prescribed medication in its original packet/bottle which also shows your name and medication details so you avoid exposure to air, germs, moisture; prevent miscounting or mix ups if you have several similar tablets.
  • It's probably a good idea to take a copy of your prescription form too
  • Ask your local chemist to write down the name of your usual medication in the language of the country you're visiting. Be prepared.
  • Pop a note in your diary a month before travel to order your prescriptions (or obtain a licence if needed for larger doses of controlled medicines)

Missing or Lost Medicine

If it goes missing, don't panic. You can buy most medicines in pharmacies abroad.

If you have an EHIC card you can use it in Europe to obtain healthcare.

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To avoid problems at Customs, get a letter from your doctor explaining that any needles/syringes are for medication purposes (e.g., insulin).

If you need to carry medicines, make sure you have a letter confirming that you need them for your particular health condition.

Hot Tips and Info

Pop a note in your diary a week before travel to order your prescriptions

If travelling for a long stay, then your GP may not be able to supply all the medication.


AIDS patients often need to carry a large amount of drugs so it's vital to have that letter or statement from your GP.

Some medicines are banned in countries such as Pakistan, India and Turkey and some Middle Eastern countries.

Other countries have set limits on the amount of certain drugs (e.g. Methadone) that you can take into that country, even for personal use and with a doctor's letter.

If you have to take more than that limit into the country you could need an import license.

For peace of mind, get in touch with the embassy in advance.

For British Embassy/Consulate details log on to the Foreign & Commonwealth Office website at www.fco.gov.uk. Other embassies, search online using the country prefix, Australia, America (USA), France, Spain etc.

Controlled Drugs List

For current list please see source http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk (opens in new window)

Brand name of medicine containing controlled drugName of controlled drugAllowance in milligrams
AmytalBarbiturate, Amylobarbitone9000 mgs
CyclimorphMorphine Tartrate1200 mgs
DexedrineDexamphetamine Sulphate900 mgs
DiconalDipipanone600 mgs
Dihydrocodeine injectionDihydrocodeine Tartrate3600 mgs
DurogesicFentanyl45 mgs
DurominePhentermine450 mgs
EquagesicMeprobamate3600 mgs
EquanilMeprobamate3600 mgs
FortagesicPentazocine Hydrochloride9000 mgs
Fortral suppositoriesPentazocine Lactate5400 mgs
FortralPentazocine Lactate5400 mgs
FortralPentazocine Hydrochloride9000 mgs
Fortral injectionPentazocine Lactate5400 mgs
IonaminPhentermine as resin complex450 mgs
MST ContinusMorphine Sulphate1200 mgs
NarphenPhenazocine450 mgs
OramorphMorphine Sulphate1200 mgs
Oramorph ConcentrationMorphine Sulphate1200 mgs
Oramorph Unit DoseMorphine Sulphate1200 mgs
PalfiumDextromoramide (as Tartrate)900 mgs
Palfium SuppositoriesDextromoramide (as Tartrate)900 mgs
PalladoneHydromorphone360 mgs
Pamergan P100Pethidine Hydrochloride2250 mgs
Pentazocine injectionPentazocine Lactate5400 mgs
PentazocinePentazocine Hydrochloride9000 mgs
Pentazocine suppositoriesPentazocine Lactate5400 mgs
PethidinePethidine Hydrochloride2250 mgs
Pethidine injectionPethidine Hydrochloride2250 mgs
PhenobarbitoneBarbiturate, Phenobarbitone2700 mgs
PhyseptoneMethadone Hydrochloride500 mgs
Physeptone injectionMethadone Hydrochloride500 mgs
ProminalMethylphenobarbitone9000 mgs
RitalinMethylphenidate Hydrochloride900 mgs
RohypnolFlunitrazepam30 mgs
Seconal SodiumQuinalbarbitone Sodium3000 mgs
SevredolMorphine Sulphate1200 mgs
Sodium AmytalAmylobarbitone Sodium9000 mgs
Sodium Amytal injectionAmylobarbitone Sodium9000 mgs
SonerylButobarbitone4500 mgs
SublimazeNarcotic Analgesic, Fentanyl45 mgs
TemazepamTemazepam900 mgs
TemgesicBuprenorphine24 mgs
Temgesic injectionBuprenorphine24 mgs
TuinalQuinal Barbitone Sodium3000 mgs
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