Published: 15 December 2014


Importing Medicines for Personal Use

Prescriber Update 35(4): 51-52
December 2014

Key Messages

  • Some patients may seek authority from authorised prescribers to release mported medicines for personal use.
  • Authority is granted when an authorised prescriber completes and signs the Medsafe form.
  • An authorised prescriber must be satisfied that the patient's health and safety have been protected in compliance with all health codes and medical council guidelines1.
  • Imported medicines have not been approved for use in New Zealand and are of unknown quality.



A consumer can import a prescription medicine only if it is lawfully prescribed by a New Zealand authorised prescriber.

Medsafe, in conjunction with NZ Customs Service, operates a border program for imported medicines. If a prescription medicine for personal use is imported, Medsafe sends a letter to the importer that requires approval from authorised prescriber.

In general there are two categories of medicines imported for personal use.

Medicines purchased over the internet

Consumers frequently purchase medicines over the internet for reasons of cost or confidentiality. Medsafe strongly discourages this practice because the medicines may be of poor quality, sub- or super-potent, contaminated, adulterated or counterfeit. Although these medicines may appear to be from a pharmacy in a well-regulated country, this is frequently not the case.

Medicines sent from family or medical clinics

People who have moved to New Zealand or are visiting here may prefer to source their medicines from their home country. These medicines may have been lawfully prescribed and dispensed in their originating country so prescribers need to consider this when deciding whether or not to authorise the imported medicine.

Authorisation Requests

The details of the medicine(s) will be listed on the form. Prescribers should consider whether it is appropriate to prescribe the medicine for this patient. Prescribers should also consider such factors as possible issues with the quality of the product.

Medsafe recommends that if a medicine, or clinically acceptable alternative, is available in New Zealand then that should be prescribed instead.

Providing Authorisation

Authorised prescribers who choose to provide authorisation need to complete and sign the form and return it directly to Medsafe. Please note that Medsafe is not licensed to dispense medicines therefore cannot divide a pack and cannot provide pharmacy labels with dosage instructions.

If the amount of medicine imported exceeds three months' supply (or six months' supply of oral contraceptives) this cannot be supplied directly to the patient. However, prescribers may choose to have the medicine sent to them to be dispensed in compliance with medicines legislation.

For further information, please contact:

  1. Medsafe. Use of unapproved medicines and unapproved use of medicines. Revised 22 October 2014. URL: (accessed 10 October 2014)
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