Overseas Drug Diversion
The Australian Government's Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) makes sure all Australian residents and eligible visitors with affordable and reliable access to approximately 2500 prescription medicines.
Medicare works to make sure the PBS is used appropriately and efficiently to secure its future for all Australians.
It is illegal to take or send PBS subsidised medicine out of Australia unless it is for personal use or the use of someone travelling with you.
PBS subsidised medicine is sometimes taken or sent from Australia for re-sale or for relatives and friends overseas who may not be able to get this medicine in their home country. Such activity is illegal and has potential health implications.
Under the National Health Act 1953, it is illegal to take or send PBS medicines out of Australia for reasons other than personal use or the personal use of someone travelling with you, for example a child.
People who are found to be dealing with a PBS medicine in a way other than which it was intended risk a fine of up to $5000 and/or two years imprisonment. There are also restrictions on the amount of PBS medicine you can take or send overseas.
It is an offence to take or send more than the designated quantity of a PBS medicine. The maximum penalty for this offence is two years imprisonment. The designated quantity can be calculated using the formula set out in Section 103(4AC) of the National Health Act 1953.
MQ is the quantity or number of units of that pharmaceutical benefit that is determined by the Minister, under paragraph 85A(2)(a) of the National Health Act 1953, to be the maximum quantity, or the maximum number of units, of that pharmaceutical benefit that may, in one prescription, be directed to be supplied on any one occasion; and
RA is the number (if any) that is determined by the Minister, under paragraph 85A(2)(b) of the National Health Act 1953, to be the maximum number of occasions on which the supply of the pharmaceutical benefit may, in one prescription, be directed to be repeated.
Medicare is working with the Australian Customs Service (Customs) to stop PBS medicines being illegally taken or sent overseas. If a Customs Officer is not satisfied that the medicine is for the personal use of the traveller or the personal use of a person travelling with them, the medicine may be detained.
Medicare has produced several information products about travelling overseas with PBS medicines, including an information sheet which is available in 19 languages.
Medicare's key message is 'Taking or sending PBS medicines overseas that are not for personal use or the personal use of someone travelling with you is illegal'.
Standard letter - medicine documentation
Medicare has developed a standard letter you can use when providing information for patients explaining what the medicine is, how much they are carrying or sending and that it is for personal use or the personal use of someone travelling with you, for example a child.
Order information materials for your patients
There is a selection of information material about ODD including brochures and posters, available for you to use with your patients. To order a copies of the material download and complete the following form and mail or fax it to the details on the form.
Below is a list of available resource materials about taking or sending PBS medicine overseas.
- Brochure for patients (DL)
- Mini brochure (business card size)
- A3 poster
- Patient travel letter [RTF, 17Kb]
- Medicine Export Declaration
- Information Sheets available in 19 Languages - Choose Your Language
For more information on taking or sending PBS medicines overseas, call the Travelling with PBS medicine enquiry line on 1800 500 147 (call charges apply).
If you need help translating this information call the Translating and Interpreting Service on 131 450 (call charges apply).
Some documents on this page may require the free Adobe PDF reader.
Last updated: 27 September, 2013