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Travelling with controlled drugs

Information on carrying controlled drugs when travelling abroad

Overview:
1. General information
2. Travelling in countries that are parties to the Schengen Agreement
3. Travelling in other countries
4. Exception: Substitution patients travelling abroad
5. Physicians carrying controlled drugs abroad
6. Medicinal products concerned

1. General information
According to the regulations of the Narcotic Drugs Prescription Ordinance, a physician may prescribe appropriate quantities of controlled drugs for his/her patients. The patient is permitted to import or export the controlled drugs acquired on the basis of a prescription by a physician in quantities appropriate for the duration of the journey as travel necessities. Third persons are not allowed to carry the controlled drugs as these are permitted exclusively for one's own use (cf. Section 4 sub-section 1 number 4 b of the Act on the Trade in Narcotic Drugs in conjunction with Section 15 sub-section 1 of the Ordinance Concerning the Foreign Trade in Narcotics. When taking controlled drugs on travels the following regulations are to be observed:

2. Travelling in countries that are parties to the Schengen Agreement
For trips lasting up to 30 days in member states of the Schengen Agreement (currently Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Estonia, Finland, France, Greece, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malta, The Netherlands, Norway, Austria, Poland, Portugal, Sweden, Switzerland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Czech Republic and Hungary) controlled drugs prescribed by a physician can be carried, provided the traveller can present a certification in accordance with Article 75 of the Schengen Implementing Convention filled out by the physician in charge. This certification is to be authenticated by the supreme health authority of the Land (or an authority to which it has delegated that competence) prior to commencement of the journey. The certification is authenticated by the competent Land authorities on the basis of the medical prescription and is valid for a maximum of 30 days. Separate certificates are necessary for each individual controlled drug prescribed.
The ruling on carrying controlled drugs within member states of the Schengen Agreement also applies to residents of another member state entering the Federal Republic of Germany, even if they are carrying controlled drugs that are prescribable in the country of origin but not in the Federal Republic of Germany.

The a.m. regulation for the Schengen Area is based on Article 75 of the Schengen Implementing Convention of 19 June 1990, on the Decision of the Executive Committee of 22 December 1994 regarding the certificate provided for in Article 75 to carry narcotic drugs and/or psychotropic substances (SCH/Com-ex (94) 28 rev.), as well as on the Announcement regarding the Carrying of Controlled Drugs into the Member States of the Schengen Agreement of 27 March 1995 (German Federal Gazette p. 4349), as last amended by the Announcement of 11 June 2001 (German Federal Gazette p. 14517).

3. Travelling in other countries
In order to also be able to carry controlled drugs when travelling in countries other than those mentioned above, the Federal Opium Agency advises patients to act in accordance with the guidelines for travellers published by the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB). This guideline states that patients should have their prescribing physicians issue a multilingual certificate including information on individual and daily doses, international name of the active substance, and duration of the trip. This certificate is likewise to be authenticated (see above) by the competent supreme health authority of the Land or an authority to which it has delegated that competence and is to be carried during the journey. The layout of the certificate is not binding; model of such a certificate. The guideline provides for carrying of controlled drugs for a travelling maximum of 30 days.
As there are no internationally harmonised regulations regarding the carrying of controlled drugs on journeys outside the Schengen Area, the national regulations of the respective target or transit countries have to be considered. Patients are urgently advised to clarify the legal situation in the country of their destination prior to commencement of the journey. Some countries additionally require import permits, limit the amount of controlled drugs that can be carried, or even entirely prohibit the carrying of specific controlled drugs. The diplomatic mission of the destination country in Germany will be able to give more information on such issues; relevant contact addresses can be found on the website of the Federal Foreign Office.
On its webpage, the INCB has also created a section with information for travellers which includes a compilation of the entry procedures of most countries (this page is currently under construction and is not complete).

In cases in which it is not possible to carry the controlled drugs, it should first be clarified whether the necessary controlled drugs themselves (or equivalent products) are available in the target country and can be prescribed be a local physician.

If this is also not possible, the only way to carry the controlled drugs on such travels would be via import and export authorisations which would have to be applied for with the Federal Opium Agency. However, as this procedure is very extensive and due to the country-specific characteristics, this option is only pursued in very rare exceptions.

4. Exception: Substitution patients travelling abroad
Active substances subject to the Narcotic Drugs Act (especially methadone, levomethadone, and buprenorphine) are used for substitution treatment of patients addicted to opioids.
If justifiable from a medical point of view and in agreement with the regulations of the country in question, the physician can give the patient a prescription for the substitute drug covering the amount necessary for the duration of the trip – but for no more than 30 days a year. The physician must notify the competent Land authority immediately of such prescriptions (cf. Section 5 sub-section 8 BtMVV).

However, since entering several countries with (certain) substitute drugs is prohibited or subject to special conditions, it is strictly recomanded for the patient to consult the respective diplomatic mission of the country of destination in Germany prior to commencement of the journey. Likewise, the maintenance of a substitution treatment by a physician abroad is also not permitted in all countries of the world or is scarcely feasible due to considerable bureaucratic obstacles.

5. Physicians carrying controlled drugs abroad
On the basis of Section 4 sub-section 1 number 4 a of the Act on the Trade in Narcotic Drugs in conjunction with Section 15 sub-section 1 of the Ordinance concerning the Foreign Trade in Narcotics, physicians, dentists, and veterinarians are permitted to carry controlled drugs in the course of charitable assignments abroad (e.g. Médecins Sans Frontières) or as surgery supply in the case of local border traffic, if they are used in appropriate quantities and for the purpose of exercising their medical profession or rendering first aid. In order to avoid difficulties when crossing borders, the physician should bear appropriate identification (e.g. Medical Identity Card). On the international level, the legal basis for this issue is either not or only partially harmonised. Therefore, prior to commencement of the journey, physicians should contact the diplomatic mission of the country of destination as to whether they are permitted to carry the controlled drugs and should obtain the possibly required authorisations from the competent supervisory authority.

6. Medicinal products concerned
Only the controlled drugs listed in Annex III of the Act on the Trade in Narcotic Drugs can be prescribed for medical purposes by the physician in charge. If patients have questions as to whether the active substance of a medicinal product is a prescribable controlled drug or is subject to international control they should contact their physician or pharmacist.