Rules and tips for buying medicines on vacation

Rules and tips for buying medicines on vacation
  • Maria Wendel

    FromMaria Wendel


Top up first aid kit? Medicines abroad are often cheaper. But the purchase also harbors risks if you are not careful.

Painkillers, digestive aids or fever medicine for children – in a well-equipped household, the most important emergency medication should always be at hand. However, since stocking the medicine cabinet can quickly become expensive, more and more people are tending to buy their medicines abroad. At many holiday destinations popular with Germans, medicines are often significantly cheaper than in Germany, which means that it can definitely be worthwhile to make a trip to the pharmacy or drugstore before heading home.

However, the applicable legal requirements must be observed when importing medicines. It is not only about the customs regulations of the Federal Republic, but also partly about the restrictions of the Narcotics Act. If all of these aspects are taken into account, there is nothing standing in the way of purchasing bargain medicines while on vacation. So that you can start your next trip without any worries, you will find the relevant information on buying medicines abroad here.

Strict regulations apply to the import of medicines in Germany

In principle, it is permitted to import medicines and other health products into Germany. However, medicines cannot be carried in unlimited quantities and some preparations that are freely available abroad are subject to stricter regulations in Germany.

Language barriers or ignorance about medicines can lead to the wrong medicines being purchased on holiday. (icon picture)

© Manuel Geisser/Imago

As the consumer advice center explains in an article on the subject, only medicines for personal use may be imported into Germany. So if you plan to buy in large quantities in order to later make a profit with the cheaper pills, you are breaking the law. In general, only an amount that is sufficient for about three months according to the dosage recommendations on the package leaflet may be carried. It doesn’t matter whether the drug is over-the-counter or requires a prescription. If you have a valid prescription for the medicine, you can also buy medicines that require a doctor’s prescription abroad and bring them to Germany. In this case, you should always have the corresponding prescription or at least a letter from your doctor with you as proof. Caution is advised when entering the country from a special area under customs or tax law: Other regulations may apply here, which you should definitely find out about before you leave.

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Buying medicines abroad: The content does not always match the label

Of course, there are also challenges when purchasing medicines abroad. Language barriers or general ignorance about medicines can quickly lead to the wrong preparations being purchased, which in the worst case can even cause health complications. While commonly needed medicines such as painkillers are often sold under the same name around the world, not all medicines are. Some of the names are very similar, although they are two completely different preparations with different effects.

Before making a purchase, you should therefore always find out exactly what the active ingredients in the drug are. In addition, the purchase itself can also become a trap. Because the interest in cheap medicines has also attracted dodgy dealers in many places. No matter how tempting the offer may seem, only buy your medicines abroad from pharmacies and reputable shops. Otherwise, you may risk serious health consequences.

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It is better not to buy some medicines on holiday

As long as you comply with the applicable regulations, there is basically nothing standing in the way of buying your medicines abroad. Nevertheless, certain medicines should continue to be better purchased in Germany in order to avoid difficulties when entering the country. These include, among other things, preparations that are subject to the Narcotics Act in Germany. This can be the case, for example, with psychotropic drugs such as ADHD medication. The consumer advice center also warns against importing banned substances, some of which are misused for doping purposes. These include anabolic substances such as hormones and growth factors, which are used, for example, by trans people during their gender reassignment process. Caution is also required with natural remedies, so-called lifestyle preparations or dietary supplements, as these may contain substances that are subject to strict regulations in Germany. If in doubt, it is better not to buy these medicines abroad and bring them with you to Germany.

This article only contains general information on the respective health topic and is therefore not intended for self-diagnosis, treatment or medication. In no way does it replace a visit to the doctor. Unfortunately, our editorial team cannot answer individual questions about clinical pictures.

Machine assistance was used for this editorial-written article. The article was carefully checked by editor Maria Wendel before publication.

List of rubrics: © Manuel Geisser/Imago


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