If you’re planning a trip to New Zealand, you may need to bring personal medications with you.
Though most medication is available in New Zealand, either over the counter or through the doctor with a prescription, it is often easier to bring medicine from home.
If you do so, you will need to meet the requirements of:
- Medsafe (for medicines, medical devices and herbal remedies)
- Medicines Control (for controlled drugs used as medicines)
- the New Zealand Customs Service.
What does this mean in practice?
You can bring most of your personal medication into New Zealand.
However, occasionally medications brought in from overseas, even on prescription, may not be approved in New Zealand.
Additionally, some international over-the-counter (OTC) medications (purchased without a prescription overseas) may require a prescription in New Zealand.
Melatonin is a good example of this – it can be bought in the US without a prescription but is a prescription-only medication in NZ.
Personal medications that can be carried into New Zealand
Most medications from overseas can be carried into Aotearoa in limited quantities.
- be for personal use, or for that of immediate family members
- not be sold or given away.
Allowed prescription medications include:
- birth control
- heart medications
- blood pressure medications.
The majority of prescription medicines are able to be carried in.
The maximum quantity of personal medication you can bring in at any one time depends on the type of medication.
- Most prescription medications – 90 days worth.
- Contraceptives – up to 6 months worth.
- Prescription medications that are also classed as controlled drugs – 30 days worth.
There seems to be some flexibility on this, but these quantities are the official limit. In reality, most customs offers won’t be too worried about relatively small amounts of medication being carried for personal use – even if it is a touch over the approved amount.
We are from Uk and have brought 4 months of prescribed medications from GP. We kept in original boxes and declared on arrival. We had no issues at the border.NZTT member
As we are here for an extended trip our GP listed all our medications, our Aussie pharmacy could fill six months worth. If we need more while here we need to get a NZ GP to use the letter from our GP to prescribe more.
On arrival at Auckland we declared it on our entry card, were asked if they were in original packaging and did not have to open luggage to show so we had no problems at all. Hope this helps.NZTT member
To check that your medications are allowed in New Zealand, and to find out how much you can carry, check online in advance.
Steps to follow if bringing medications in with you
If you are bringing personal medication with you into New Zealand, either on your person or in your luggage, you must ensure that you:
- declare the medications on your passenger arrival card
- Have the medications in their original containers or in a blister pack, sealed by your pharmacist
- Do not have more than the maximum quantities listed above
- have a copy of the prescription or letter from your doctor, stating that you are being treated with that medication (if it is a prescription-only medication in New Zealand)
Most other medications including herbal, supplements, and OTC medications, may be carried with you without the above documentation, but must only be for personal, or your immediate family’s use.
What happens if you are staying in New Zealand longer than your medication will last?
If you need more prescription-only medication in NZ, you will need to see a local doctor. Overseas prescriptions cannot be filled in New Zealand.
Some examples of medications you can carry without a prescription include:
- paracetamol + Ibuprofen combo
- most vitamin supplements
- fish oil
- most hay fever medications
- Difflam (lozenges)
- voltaren (topical only)
- asthma inhalers.
Did you know? Products must contain less than 2% honey, pollen or royal jelly. If these ingredients are present, you’ll need a manufacturer’s declaration to show it meets the requirements.
Unsure? Declare it
To be on the safe side, if you think it might be considered a prescription medicine or controlled drug, or if you’re bringing in a large quantity, it must be declared on your incoming passenger arrival card.
If in doubt, declare it.
Pro tip: Carry all medications in your carry-on bag. That way you won’t be without them if your checked bag gets lost. You’ll also have easy access to them as you move through customs.
Having personal medication sent from overseas
Importing prescription-only drugs
If you are arranging the delivery of prescription-only personal medications from overseas you will need to provide an acceptable “reasonable excuse”.
MedSafe defines a “reasonable excuse” as one of the following:
- an original letter from a New Zealand authorised prescriber
- an original prescription from a New Zealand authorised prescriber
Authorised prescribers are:
- nurse prescribers/practitioners.
Letters and prescriptions need to:
- state the reason for the importation (if not on MedSafe’s approved list)
- contain the exact, full details of
- the medication
- its dosage
- form (e.g. tablets or liquids)
- show that the prescriber is aware they are authorising the importation of prescription medication.
The prescription may also be held up by NZ customs while they verify the identity of the prescriber.
Importing controlled drugs
Medicines containing controlled drugs cannot be imported in this manner.
>>> Learn more about bringing controlled medicines into Aotearoa.
Bringing medicinal cannabis and CBD into New Zealand
Medicinal cannabis is allowed into NZ under certain circumstances.
If wanting to bring medicinal cannabis or CBD into Aotearoa, you must:
- have been prescribed the medicine by a doctor
- carry a copy of the prescription or letter stating that you are being treated with the product
- declare it n your passenger arrival card
- carry it in its original labelled container
- bring in no more than a 3-month supply of a CBD product, or a 1-month supply of any other medicinal cannabis product.
There is some uncertainty about bringing CBD and cannabis products from the USA. These products from the United States were not allowed into New Zealand as they were not considered lawfully supplied (as of 2016). However, more recent documentation (as of 2020) does not mention this limitation.
We are trying to confirm New Zealand’s current requirements on CBD/cannabis products from the USA but suggest contacting authorities to be sure. Please let us know if you have personal experience with this.
CITES: Importing traditional medicines
Most herbal medicines, dietary supplements and over-the-counter medicines may be brought into NZ.
However, some traditional medicines contain extracts or parts of plants and animals that are protected by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).
Traditional or alternative medicines which contain CITES species (even in very small amounts) come in various forms. They can be raw or processed. Others come in commercial medicine packages like tablets, pills and plasters.
CITES regulates and monitors trade in endangered animal and plant species to ensure it does not threaten their long-term survival in the wild.Department of Conservation
It doesn’t matter:
- how you bring these items into New Zealand
- whether they are from species that are farmed or wild
- whether they are for personal or commercial use.
Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) will determine if you are allowed to use the medication here.
Assuming the traditional medication you want to carry meets CITES requirements, you will need:
- an import permit from New Zealand Authorities
- an export permit from the country of origin.
>>> Find out more about bringing traditional medicines and CITES before you board your flight.
Going through customs with a pacemaker
People travelling with pacemakers and implantable defibrillators are able to pass through customs without concern.
We do, however, have some professional advice to share.
As a cardiac physiologist, I can comment on pacemakers and implantable defibrillators (ICDs) going through customs. Always tell them you have a cardiac device, and put a hand over your device and say “It’s here”. They will most likely bypass the scanner and do the wand over all of your body except where your hand is, and/or give you a pat down.
If you do walk through the screening gate, just walk straight through, don’t linger. It doesn’t do any damage to your device but can temporarily alter the settings/output.NZTT member
Medications that cannot be brought into New Zealand
Some medications will be legal and/or socially acceptable overseas.
Medications containing pseudoephedrine are more difficult to get into New Zealand.
It falls into the following category:
Illicit drugs are also not allowed. These include:
- Class A: methamphetamine, magic mushrooms, cocaine, heroin and LSD/acid
- Class B: cannabis oil (unless medicinal), hashish, morphine, opium, MDMA/ecstasy and many amphetamine-type substances
- Class C: cannabis seed and cannabis plant (unless medicinal).
Though it might feel like there is a lot to consider when bringing medication into Aotearoa, most medications allowed overseas are also allowed through our borders.
Just remember, if you are in any doubt, declare it to the customs officer and on your arrivals card.