Revised: 29 June 2018

Importing Medicines - Frequently Asked Questions

What is Medsafe?

Medsafe is responsible for administering the Medicines Act 1981 and Regulations 1984, and parts of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975 and Regulations 1977.
Further information

I have found an overseas website advertising a prescription medicine. Can I order it?

It is illegal to import a prescription medicine without reasonable excuse. If you wish to import this medicine you will need to provide Medsafe with an original signed prescription or letter from a New Zealand doctor.

The quantity must not exceed 3 months supply for prescription medicines (with the exception of oral contraceptives which can be supplied in 6 months quantities)

I have found a herbal medicine or supplement for sale over the internet. Can I order it?

If the product does not contain a prescription medicine it may be imported without restriction. Be aware that some herbal products or supplements may be classified as prescription medicines in New Zealand. Some examples are Melatonin, DHEA and Yohimbine.

Can I import traditional Chinese medicines?

Some Chinese Medicines may be imported.

They must not contain prescription medicines.

It is prohibited to import certain plant or animal products. The CITES Team at the Department of Conservation regulate such products and should be contacted for further information regarding this issue. Their email address is

The Ministry for Primary Industries regulate the requirements for such products imported in raw form. Their email address is

Can I import medicines containing a controlled drug?

Medsafe has no jurisdiction to deal with controlled drugs at the border.  All enquires relating to this issue should be made to the New Zealand Customs Service.

What are the requirements for personal importation of medicines?

Bringing medicines into New Zealand on your person or in 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:

All other medicines including herbal medicines, dietary supplements and over-the-counter medicines may be imported without the above documentation provided they do not contain prescription medicines. Over the counter medicines may only be imported for individual use or for a member of your immediate family. Please note that anything in your possession that might be considered as a prescription medicine or controlled drug must be declared on your incoming passenger arrival card. If in doubt, declare it.

Having medicines sent from an overseas supplier
If you are having medicines sent to from overseas you will be required to prove you have a "reasonable excuse" for the importation.

We define "reasonable excuse" as either:

Medicines containing controlled drugs cannot be imported in this manner.

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.

Can I bring over-the-counter cold medicines into New Zealand?

A medicine may be over-the-counter in one country, but may be classified as a prescription medicine in New Zealand. For example, some cold medicines contain Pseudoephedrine. This is controlled drug and cannot be personally imported into New Zealand. For more information please refer to How to change the legal classification of a medicine in New Zealand (PDF 428KB, 13 pages).

How may "reasonable excuse" be defined?

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

What is the maximum supply of prescription medicines I can bring in for personal use?

If you provide Medsafe with a reasonable excuse, the maximum amount you are able to import is three months supply, except in the case of oral contraceptive pills, where you are able to import a six months supply.

For further guidance on importing medicines click here