Individuals can legally import most therapeutic goods for personal use under the Personal Importation Scheme.
Personal importation occurs when:
- an individual arranges from within Australia for a therapeutic good to be sent to them from an overseas supplier or family/friend; and
- the goods are to be used by that individual or a member of his/her immediate family and are not sold or supplied to any other person.
It is important to note that such therapeutic goods may not be approved for supply in Australia; this means there are no guarantees about their safety or quality.
Because safety and quality cannot be guaranteed do not order medicines, including dietary supplements and herbal preparations, over the Internet unless:
- You know exactly what is in the preparation; and
- You have checked the legal requirements for importation and use in Australia.
Personal Importation Scheme
Under the Personal Importation Scheme you may import a 3 month supply at the one time (at the maximum dose recommended by the manufacturer) of unapproved therapeutic goods into Australia without any approval required by the TGA provided that:
- the goods are for your own treatment or the treatment of your immediate family; and
- you do not supply (sell or give) the medicine to any other person; and
- where possible, you keep the medicines or medical devices in their original packaging with any dispensing labels intact; and
- the goods are not restricted under Australian Customs controls or quarantine rules and the goods do not contain a controlled substance; and
- the goods are not injections that contain material of human or animal origin (except insulin); and
- the total quantity of the goods imported within a 12 month period does not exceed 15 months supply of the goods (for medicines, at the maximum dose recommended by the manufacturer); and
- if the goods are medicines in Schedule 4 or 8 of the Poisons Standard a prescription from an Australian-registered medical practitioner is held for the medicines.
You cannot import more than a 3 month supply at the one time under the personal importation scheme. If you wish to bring more than 3 months supply at the one time into Australia, an Australian-registered doctor will first need to apply to the TGA for Special Access Scheme approval.
Each country has its own controls regarding the import of particular substances. Countries, which are signatories to international drug treaties, will generally have similar requirements for narcotic and psychotropic substances. However, there can be a vast difference in the way in which anabolic/androgenic steroids are regulated.
The substances listed below are not controlled substances in some countries (e.g. USA) and are widely available in dietary supplement preparations in those countries.
- DHEA (Dehydroepiandrosterone)
- Ephedra (ma huang)
However, under the Customs legislation in Australia, these substances are classified as either anabolic steroids or precursors and are prohibited imports unless an import permit has been obtained.
To establish if the goods are subject to the Customs controls you need to know what ingredients are in the product. You can check whether these ingredients are controlled substances which require import licences/permits.
Anyone ordering herbal or dietary supplements from the USA should check that the product does not contain a controlled substance. Where such preparations are identified by Customs as prohibited imports, the goods will be seized. Import permits cannot be issued retrospectively and the goods may be destroyed by Customs.
Quarantine clearance may be required prior to the import of any material of biological origin (human, animal, plant or bacterial ingredients). You should contact the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources to see if an import permit is required.
To import or export substances containing parts of animals and plants listed as endangered species you will require a permit issued under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act). Further information can be obtained from the Department of the Environment website.