How to navigate bureaucracy
January 24, 2022 12:50 AM   Subscribe

Does anyone know who I can contact to clarify rules around bringing medication into Australia from overseas? It seems that both Australian residents and tourists who are visiting are able to bring in just three months' supply under the traveller's exemption. But what if you need to bring in more than that? What if it's a treatment which isn't available in Australia?

I found an email address for a department which I thought might be able to provide some clarity, but got an automated reply which indicates that a human will never read my email.

I do plan on asking my GP and specialist, but I'd like to try to get my head around the regulations before I do so. Besides, our medical system is slammed at the moment so it will take some time to see them.
posted by kinddieserzeit to Law & Government (2 answers total)
I know you’re in Australia (which I have some experience with this issue, having shipped prescription medication from Canada to there myself) but I wonder if my knowledge of British Colombia’s provincial Special Authority Process for Drugs program might help in giving you ideas for keywords/phrases to help in your search for answers. While I did apply for the program twice (and rejected twice) with my GP, the people answering my many questions/specifics were knowledgeable, helpful and kind. Even if your state doesn’t have this program, it might give you things to ask or places to look for you hadn’t thought of to your GP.

Another option you might or might not have heard of is contacting the Rare Voices Australia organization, which is an advocacy group that works with/for those impacted by rare/orphan diseases. While they may not have information on your specific medication or condition, they would probably know how to navigate the bureaucracy at different levels on how to bring in medication into Australia from overseas. I have no contact or experience with them, but a past job of mine included medical librarianship duties for parents/patients just finding out a new medical diagnosis and how to get resources/support/information for their specific circumstances and this is the type of organization I would point families to.
posted by carabiner at 7:32 AM on January 24

Was the email you tried for the SAS? It looks like that's where I would start.

Special Access Scheme (Also includes a link to the list of approved medicines in Australia.)

The other question I'd ask would be, is the substance even prohibited/limited? The SAS appears to be the avenue for getting permission to bring in things that you wouldn't normally be allowed to bring in. But if it's something that's generally allowed, there's no reason you'd be limited to 3 months per se; 3 months is the quantity covered by the travelers exemption to limitations or prohibitions on e.g. controlled substances. Some medicines that are free to possess may not actually need to use that exemption at all. I'd probably be looking up information about importing it into Australia or its legality in Australia, as a start.

If it is something that's prohibited, 3 months is probably the threshold where they stop considering you a visitor and start considering you (for this purpose, anyway) a resident, someone who should be able to go see an Australian doctor and get a fresh prescription for a permitted medicine, and generally not be exempted from the rules of the land.

Caveat as always, I'm not an expert on any of this and all I've done is a little googling. But those are the roads I'd suggest you look down.
posted by Lady Li at 7:01 PM on January 24

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