Headed to Dubai or Abu Dhabi? New Requirement to Register Your Medications in Advance

I’ve taken medicine with me all over the world. I take a pill for allergies, and I have over the counter pain relief in my travel bag. I’ve never had a problem, although of course carrying medicine can run afoul of local laws. Not everything that’s legal in the United States is legal elsewhere.

It’s always a good idea to carry all medications (including things like vitamins even) in their full original packages (including paper inserts describing contents of the drugs). That’s a pain because it takes up extra space, and you may not even save those normally. But you want to be sure you’re able to show the name of the drug and its contents and in the case of something prescribed to you that the name on the prescription matches the name on your passport. Ideally you want a copy of the prescription as well.

I know people who are so conservative in their approach they get a letter from their doctor with the medications they need and why and have that letter translated into the local language for where they’re traveling.

These are best practices that not everyone follows. The United Arab Emirates though has a new requirement that you submit the medications you’ll be bringing into the country for approval in advance.

All tourists and residents of UAE will now be required to fill in an electronic form to get approval to carry any kind of medication for personal use, said a top Ministry of Health and Prevention official. The Import of Personal Medication service was launched at Gitex 2018.

…Dr Ameen Hussain Al Amiri, assistant undersecretary for Licencing and Public Health Policy at the ministry told Gulf News: “In order to carry personal medication, both control and regular medication, it is now mandatory for all passengers entering UAE to get this prior approval from the ministry to carry their prescription-based medication. We are doing this to control drug threats that hinder the economy and public health.”

Here’s the process. You credit a profile on the Ministry of Health website, submit a copy of the prescription and your passport, and other details — the form is supposed to be reviewed within one business day.

And here’s guidelines for carrying medicine into the UAE and a list of controlled drugs with special conditions.

In general I would expect that failure to do this would simply involve having medications confiscated at the border if they’re found when you’re entering the country. However I do not want to be in violation of UAE laws — the problem is that there are many rules which are often not enforced, until they are.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Comments

  1. You have to be kidding me have you read through the “list” As a combat wounded vet I have an issue what I take when I need it is one this list meaning now I have to go to the VA and get a letter, really? It would seem to me that the original packaging current dates would be sufficient. Just something else to slow one up

  2. Gary, I just signed on to EK site there is mention of powered products no mention of medication yet.

  3. I would venture a guess that if your staying off airport yes, if staying at the connected hotel most likely not. I tried the link and it will not load

  4. Wow. SSRIs, antidepressants like Prozac and Lexapro–are you kidding me? These are neither narcotic nor hallucinagenic. These medications actually help stabilize a person’s mood.

    And medications for those with schizophrenia and bi-polar disorders, like Abilicy and Lithium—sorry, but WTH? If these medications are confiscated there will be the potential for more in-air incidents among passengers. Have you ever seen a bipolar or schizophrenic person without their meds?

  5. Prescriptions in NY State are now electronic and have been so for a while. The patient never receives a copy of the script, it is sent electronically to the pharmacy…..

  6. Oh please FamTaYul take it somewhere else.

    Back on point, I am concerned having visited and read through the website that creating an “account” with personal information as required is a bit disturbing to the point we had planned to spend a few days in Dubai returning from a trip to Cairo now reconsidering.

    But then it is their country not ours.

  7. I take phenobarbital for seizures (petit mal epilepsy). Have for YEARS.

    I’m allowed “Quantity for the period of stay or a maximum one month use whichever is less.”

    So if I’m staying 1 day in UAE for tourism and then transiting to AMS or LON or FRA for a week of business, by the letter of law I’m allowed 1-day’s meds with me in UAE.

    This is pants on head stupid.

    Note to self: remove UAE from list of countries to visit

  8. Just took a look at the site, which is completely unhelpful. Does the UAE realize that the success of their airlines partly hinges on how easy and hassle-free it is to overnight there en route from A to B? And that there is competition from Qatar within the Middle East and many other airlines elsewhere? And that many folks don’t have the prescriptions, beyond what is written on their bottles…and many more may have switched their pills into bottles that don’t even indicate prescriptions?

    This is a silly, bureaucratic rule in and of itself, imposing a pre-flight hassle where there should be none, and could tip some folks against dealing with this Emirates and Etihad. And once there is the first news story of someone having their prescription drugs compensated or even being delayed or detained for not filling out the form, lots of folks will avoid the UAE.

    Gary, I would think this policy will be rescinded or clarified soon. Please keep us posted if possible.

  9. One wants to be very careful going into the UAE. Admittedly this was 10 years ago, but still…

    From:

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/7234786.stm

    “Meanwhile, a Swiss national is serving a four-year jail term after three poppy seeds from a bread roll he ate at Heathrow airport were found on his clothes.”

  10. Gary, a “copy of the prescription”? Really??? I haven’t received a paper copy of a prescription in over five years. The Federal government encourages doctors to only use electronic prescriptions in an effort to fight prescription fraud when someone steals a prescription pad and decides to prescribe on their own.

  11. The list of prohibited meds, or meds requiring doctors’ notes, is not a new thing in the UAE – the electronic registry is. And yes, the list is draconian, from the standpoint of US prescription practices (the list includes common anti-anxiety, anti-depressive, and other psychotropic drugs not particularly thought of as being abused). We repackaged my husband’s meds when we visited several years ago, and they weren’t noticed. But a week after we left, an American national was arrested for trying to enter UAE (DUB) with such drugs…and he was just in transit overnight, according to my source. If you have specific concerns, an inquiry to the US Embassy in DUB or AUD might be helpful.

  12. Just called EK to double check this story and was informed that I didnt need prior permission if the drugs were in reasonable quantities for personal consumption. She said it would be nice if I carried a copy of my prescriptions with me. Of course that and a quarter wont buy me a get out of jail free card from the drug poilcle if they decide to get stroppy. This is a royal pain.

  13. OK, per the UAE site, for one medication it stated “Quantity for the period of stay or a maximum one month use whichever is less and need a Medical prescription.” My only question is >if< the medicine is taken in its original bottle with the pharmacy labels, shouldn't that qualify as proof of the medical prescription?

  14. All the normal sleeping pills like Ambien are on this list! Also a prescription isn’t enough, they want “Authenticated certificate and/or permit, from the health authority of the
    country of departure, confirming his/her legal authority to possess, for
    personal use, medical preparations mentioned therein.”

    What in the world is that???

  15. Haven’t tried to look at this list, but there are issues in other countries as well. How many people visiting Japan know that Adderall is illegal there?

  16. This is silly. This notwithstanding, these comments are incorrect:

    > Prescriptions in NY State are now electronic and have been so for a while. The patient never receives a copy of the script, it is sent electronically to the pharmacy…..
    > Gary, a “copy of the prescription”? Really??? I haven’t received a paper copy of a prescription in over five years.

    When you get your medication from the pharmacy there’s a label of the printed copy of your prescription (with the Rx number) attached to the medication itself PLUS another copy of such prescription printed on a separate piece of paper (generally in duplicate).

  17. If there is a good alternative , I will not transit through the Middle East in future . There are just too many issues now , So Emirates , Gulf and Qatar , you lost more business .

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