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Reader Question: can I bring medication into France?

The Local France
The Local France - [email protected]
Reader Question: can I bring medication into France?
(Photo: Loic Venance / AFP)

If you’re heading to France and need to bring medication with you, there are things you need to know.

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Reader question: What are the rules on bringing prescription medication with me into France? Do I need extra paperwork at the border? Are there any banned medications?

First the good news. Yes, you can bring medication with you to France - but there are a number of things to consider, including where you're coming from.

The go-to advice for bringing prescription medication to France from any other country is to bring your prescription as well. This helps prove to customs officials - and anyone else with the authority to ask - that the medicine is for your use and has been prescribed by a medical professional.

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Do this even if you are simply heading to France on a short holiday. It may avoid awkward questions at the border.

The amount of non-narcotic and non-psychotropic medication that can be brought to France from another country must, according to French customs officials, “be compatible with personal therapeutic use for the length of treatment given on the prescription or, where there is none, treatment for three months under normal conditions of use”.

Individuals may also bring in narcotic drugs or psychotropic substances for their own use if they carry them personally (ie they cannot be sent by mail or brought for you by another person).

Quantities must be compatible with personal therapeutic use for the length of treatment given on the prescription or, where there is none, treatment for one month under normal conditions of use.

However, due to differences in medical regulations and licensing, there are some differences depending on where you are travelling from.

EU to France

Anyone coming from another EU country must be able to produce the original prescription.

UK to France

As well as the rules on the French side about the need to produce a valid prescription on request, and the limits on drug amounts, be aware that UK GPs in most circumstances cannot prescribe more than three months of medical supplies at any single time. 

For anyone coming for a short holiday, this won't be an issue but if you’re planning to stay longer, you need to consider this. 

French pharmacists can fill out a UK prescription, or one from any non-EU nation, if the prescription “appears authentic and [is] understandable”.

The UK has not yet diverged from EU standards on the majority of medicines, so it should be fairly easy to get your prescription filled in France, even if the brand names of the drugs may be different. However this directive basically leaves the decision on whether to fill the prescription in the hands of the pharmacist.

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It may be easier for those staying in France for long periods to book an appointment with a French GP. 

As with a pharmacist, a GP may refuse to prescribe certain medications, or may offer alternatives to the drugs prescribed by UK-based doctors. Be aware that medical advice may be different in France, but in general the health system is very good so you're unlikely to end up on a worse treatment regime (and could even end up on a better one). 

US to France

The American CDC recommends that travellers from the US:

  • Keep medicines in their original, labelled containers. Ensure they are clearly labelled with your full name, healthcare provider’s name, generic and brand name, and exact dosage.
  • Bring copies of all written prescriptions, including the generic names for medicines. 
  • Ask your prescribing health care provider for a note if you use controlled substances, or injectable medicines, such as EpiPens.

Be aware, not all drugs available in the US are legal in France - such as certain pain medication. You will be able to use medicines you bring with you, as long as you carry a supporting prescription, but will not be able to renew that prescription in France. 

So if you are coming to France for an extended period, and require specific medication that is not available here, you need to make arrangements with your doctor well in advance of your trip, and you will need to have and be able to produce appropriate documentation upon request.

As mentioned above, exemptions for bringing your own medication do not extend to medication sent by mail - either ordered online or posted by a friend back in the US. While not all parcels are routinely opened, be aware that sending prescription medication by mail is not allowed, and there is no guarantee that your parcel will get to you. 

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Join the conversation in our comments section below. Share your own views and experience and if you have a question or suggestion for our journalists then email us at [email protected].
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antatmsft 2022/08/22 18:48
The advice to carry one's prescription seems overly optimistic, I haven't had a physical prescription in years, it's all transmitted electronically from doctor to pharmacy or from pharmacy to pharmacy.

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