Having medicines in your travel bag is second nature to most people, but if you’re not careful, those medicines to relieve a cough or treat painful gastric ulcers can land you in jail.
The general rules is that if you are under medication and if you are carrying certain prescribed medicines you must have doctor’s prescription in original and the medicines should be carried along with its original packing and literature so that custom authorities can easily identify them.
Some medicines, which are over-the-counter in other countries, are also considered controlled items in Qatar as they produce effects that contravene local laws.
- Many common cold and cough remedies, which you might assume to be harmless, must be accompanied by a prescription.
- Some sleeping tablets, painkillers, anti-depressants and hormone replacement therapy drugs are banned here.
- Some controlled drugs include alfentanil, amphetamine, codeine, fentanyl, ketamine, methadone, methyphenidate and morphine.
Guidelines for carrying medicines containing drugs or psychotropic substance
After the recent incidents involving Indian nationals being held at Doha airport for carrying medicines without prescription, Indian Embassy in Qatar has re-published a circular from Qatar’s Supreme Council of Health addressed to all embassies (originally published in November 2014).
The circular contains the procedures and regulations to be followed while carrying medicines containing either drugs or psychotropic substance by patients coming to Qatar or departing from here for their personal use.
Here are the main extracts from the circular :
1. It is prohibited to carry medicines and substances which are banned internationally and locally.
2. It s prohibited to carry medicines mentioned in the list (a) and list (b) of Law (9) issued in the year 1987, regarding anti-drugs and dangerous psychotropic substances. Likewise the items registered at schedule No. (3) of the same law (Link to the list is given below).
3. In order to carry such medicines, an application is to be given to the Department of Pharmacology and Drugs Control in the Supreme Council of Health.
Procedure for special permission
4. Permission would be granted to carry the medicines by the patients coming to State of Qatar for their personal use as per the following guidelines :
a) To attach detailed medical report attested by the hospital treated the patient. Medical report should not be older than six months. The report must contain the following:
- Personal Details of the patient
- Medical diagnosis
- Treatment and duration
- Medical Prescriptions
- Scientific name of the medicines, Form and scheduled doses.
b) Or to attach the medical prescription in the name of the patient, attested by the same hospital and the prescription should not be older than six months.
The prescription must have the following:
- Diagnosis of the disease
- Scientific name of the medicines, Form and scheduled doses.
- How to use and duration of treatment
- Seal of the hospital
c) To pledge that only patient will use the medicine and will use on his responsibility.
d) To attach a copy of the ID card of the patient
5. Approval can be granted to carry medicines of 30-days maximum period or for the duration of the stay if the patient in Qatar, whatever is less, subject to validity of the medicines.
The patient has to keep in mind the following:
- In case the medicine exhausts, the patient has to contact the specialist physician licensed to practice in a hospital (in Qatar), to check whether he needs to continue the same medicine.
- In case the physician confirms that the patient needs to continue the same treatment, a specific medical file has to be opened in that hospital and the appropriate medicine would be prescribed through a medical prescription attested by the same hospital. The medicine would be provided from the local pharmacy for the required period. The patient will continue to do follow ups with the same hospital for his continuos treatment if his medical condition warrants so.
- In case the medicine or its alternative is not available in the local market, the hospital treating the patient can secure this medicine through one of the drugs distributors after obtaining approval from the Department of Pharmacology and Drugs Control in the Supreme Council of Health.
6. If the medicine is in form of injection, the approval can be obtained under the supervision of any local hospital in the name of the patient. The medicine would be registered in the file of the hospital meant for personal use as per the followed procedure for such medicines.
7. Excess medicine can be destroyed through the Department of Pharmacology and Drugs Control in the Supreme Council of the Health.
While departing from Qatar
8. Departing patients from Qatar would be treated as par with one coming to Qatar according to the above mentioned paragraphs No (1), No (2), No (3) and no (4). Quantity of the medicine would be allowed for 30 days only.
9. In case, the medicine is not carried by the patient but was carried by one of his relatives (like parents, children, brothers or spouse), a copy of his ID would be taken. In case the medicine was carried by the representative of the patient, the written consent of the patient for carrying medicines has to be attached. A copy of his ID would be taken.
Special procedure for diplomats / government officials
10. In case the medicines contain drugs or psychotropic substance are to be carried by the diplomats or government officials (only) coming to State of Qatar for the patients working with the diplomatic mission. The procedures would be as following :
a) The Missions has to send an application to the Department of Pharmacology and Drugs Control in the Supreme Council of Health, mentioning the name of head of the Mission or name of the custodian of the drugs. If not so, the accompanying physician would be the custodian of the medicine.
The application should be attached with the following :
- Details of the desired medicines certified by the concerned authority in the country of Mission, including the scientific name of the drug and psychotropic substance, form, concentration, size and quantity. Medicines containing drug and psychotropic substance have to be borough through aerial transportation only.
- To pledge that the medicine would be used by the members of the Mission/delegation only on their responsibility and it would not be sold or it would not be utilised for any other purpose. To pledge that the excess medicines would be carried back. To pledge to provide details of medicine utilization, reasons for utilization, excess medicine and destroyed ones before departure of the delegation to the Department of Drugs and Pharmacology Control in the Supreme Council of Health,
11. Once application is approved, permission would be granted for carrying the medicine.
Please note that the detailed application process as above is only required for medicines containing either drugs or psychotropic substance.
However, only health care professional can advise you about the contents of a medicine. So please check with your doctor about the contents of your medicine.
Also make sure not to carry them in large quantities. Medicines for common conditions such as diabetes, hypertension (High Blood Pressure) etc are usually allowed for 1-3 months for residents. However make sure to carry the medical reports, prescriptions and original packing.
You can see the list of medicines banned in Qatar here. It is an old scanned document and some descriptions are in Arabic. However you can still view the English names if you zoom. Also note that the list can change from time to time.
For travellers to other GCC countries, the guidelines are almost similar. However list of banned medicines may not be the same. For UAE, you can find the list of banned medicines here.
– Aneesh V / NRICafe.com