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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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STRIKES

French airline staff threaten strikes over Christmas

Unions representing cabin crew on several airlines have threatened to take strike action over the Christmas holidays in a series of increasingly bitter pay disputes.

French airline staff threaten strikes over Christmas

Cabin crew for Air France have already outlined dates for possible strike days, while unions representing staff at Easyjet and Ryanair are threatening “massive disruption” unless their demands are met.

The SNPNC-FO union, which represents cabin crew working in France, is calling for pay increases for its members working for budget airline Easyjet, warning that if no agreement is reached there will be a “very high risk” of walk-outs over Christmas.

Strikes, prices and services – what you need to know about travel over Christmas 2022

No exact dates have been proposed yet, but the union says that the current pay offer does not cover the rising cost of living, adding “the management will be responsible for the disruptions suffered by our customers”.

Cabin crew at Air France have filed a provisional strike notice from December 22nd to January 2nd, although whether staff actually walk out depends on how the pay negotiations go.

“This notice should serve as a warning to our management,” explains a union leaflet. “If this warning is not heeded, only a strong mobilisation will be able to tip the balance.”

So far the only confirmed strike action is at Air Antilles and Air Guyane – which mostly run flights between France and the Caribbean and French Guyana. Their staff will be walking out between December 17th and December 22nd, unless there is a breakthrough in pay negotiations. 

Ryanair crew working in Belgium have also threatened strike action over Christmas, although so far their French colleagues have not revealed any strike plans. 

Things look better for rail and ferry travel, with no strikes currently planned – although anyone with a trip to the UK planned should be aware of strike days planned by British rail staff over the Christmas and New Year period.

French airport ground staff and air traffic controllers won themselves a pay rise after strike action over the summer holidays. 

You can find all the latest strike information for France on our strikes page HERE.

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