Hydroxychloroquine Seized at the Border

Australians are being warned not to import the drug hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for COVID-19, following a surge in detections by ABF screening imports of medical supplies.

Australians are being warned not to import and self-prescribe the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine as a possible treatment for COVID-19, following a surge in detections by Australian Border Force (ABF) officers screening medical supplies crossing the border. Dozens of consignments, totalling more than 6,000 tablets, have been intercepted at the border since January. All have been referred to the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) for assessment.

Hydroxychloroquine is a prescription-only drug used in the treatment of malaria and certain auto-immune diseases. The TGA has warned that hydroxychloroquine poses serious risks to patients, including cardiac toxicity (potentially leading to sudden heart attacks), irreversible eye damage and severe depletion of blood sugar (potentially leading to coma).

A month ago, the government waived therapeutic goods registration requirements for anti-malarial drugs - touted by Donald Trump as a potential cure for Covid-19 - to prepare for their importation to Australia. The exemption was made on the condition the medicine can only be imported, manufactured or supplied by a person with a contract or arrangement with the health department. However, the TGA also issued an alert advising medical professionals of increased restrictions when it came to prescribing hydroxychloroquine.

Individuals can legally import most therapeutic goods for personal use under the Personal Importation Scheme – however hydroxychloroquine does not come under this scheme. Personal importation is allowed for various other drugs when someone arranges for a therapeutic item to be sent to them from an overseas supplier or family/friend; and the goods are to be used by that individual or a member of his/her immediate family and are not sold or supplied to any other person.

The ABF warns that it continues to have a very strong presence at all international gateways, including mail, air and sea cargo environments, to identify and examine medical supplies, both import and export, during the COVID-19 pandemic. Its officers are on the lookout for consignments of this drug, along with all other prohibited imports and exports.

For further information on import and Customs clearance of Covid-19 drugs, or any other goods, contact us here at Colless Young. As licensed Customs Brokers and International Freight Forwarders, we offer you correct, professional advice on all import requirements and regulations. We handle freight and clearance at all major ports and airports around Australia.