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HEALTH

Reader Question: can I bring medication into France?

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

Reader Question: can I bring medication into France?
(Photo: Loic Venance / AFP)

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.

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.

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. 

Member comments

  1. 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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HEALTH

Experts warn of high levels of flu in France this winter

Experts have warned of a particularly bad flu epidemic this winter in France due to a combination of lowered immune systems and 'vaccine apathy' - urging high-risk groups to get their shot as soon as the flu vaccination campaign begins in October.

Experts warn of high levels of flu in France this winter

France’s annual flu vaccine campaign will officially get under way on October 18th this year – and medical experts have warned that this year’s season may be a bad one amid fears of “vaccine apathy”.

When, where and how to get flu shots and Covid boosters in France this autumn

Immunologist Alain Fischer, who chaired France’s Conseil d’orientation de la stratégie vaccinale throughout the Covid-19 pandemic said that the high number of flu cases in Australia and the southern hemisphere in its winter were “a warning sign” that this winter’s flu, coupled with rising cases of Covid-19, could lead to a sharp rise in hospitalisations again in the winter.

“For two years, influenza has been kept at bay, thanks to the barrier measures we have put in place against Covid,” he told Le Parisien. 

“This year, it will be difficult to maintain the same level of protection: masks, distancing, intensive hand washing … Faced with this relaxation, there is a serious risk of flu epidemic.”

Between two million and six million people contract flu every winter in France. The infection is responsible for between 4,000 and 6,000 deaths every year, usually among people aged 65 and over. But in ‘bad’ flu years, that mortality figure can rise rapidly.

READ ALSO When, where and how to get flu shots and Covid boosters this autumn in France

The country, meanwhile, is at the start of what is being described as an “eighth wave” of Covid, and the Haute Autorité de santé recommends the eligible, vulnerable people ensure they are vaccinated against both viruses as early as possible. “A Covid-flu cohabitation is not a good thing,”  Fischer said. “It is synonymous with a very high number of hospitalisations. 

“Hence the objective of two strong vaccination campaigns – Covid and flu – especially for the most vulnerable.”

“The double injection is very good, and practical for patients. But I think that we should not wait, especially vulnerable people. It is a mistake to think that you will get your Covid booster when the flu vaccine is here – the Covid jab should not be delayed.”

Currently less than 40 percent of people eligible for a fourth Covid vaccine have received their latest dose.

Dual-strain Covid-19 vaccines designed to combat both delta and omicron variants will be available in France from October 3rd.

READ ALSO France approves new vaccines for Covid Omicron sub-variants

“It is quite possible to get your Covid injection in early October and flu vaccine in late October – you will need both anyway,” Fischer said.

The Haute Autorité de Santé recommends influenza vaccination for the following groups:

  • people aged 65 and over; 
  • people with chronic diseases; 
  • pregnant women;
  • people suffering from obesity (BMI equal to or greater than 40 kg/m 2 );
  • Infants under 6 months at risk of serious influenza;
  • Families and others close to immunocompromised people; 
  • home help workers caring for vulnerable individuals.

For anyone in these groups, the flu vaccine is 100 percent covered by health insurance and delivered free of charge to the pharmacy, on presentation of a voucher.

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