forbidden medicines in the UAE

Are you traveling to the United Arab Emirates for business or just to sip cocktails in the sun?

Before you leave, make sure to take stock of the medicines (for personal use) that you are authorized to bring into the territory.

If you are traveling to Dubai, be aware that there are restrictions on the medications you can bring with you. Some medications are banned in Dubai, while others are tolerated if prescribed by a doctor. If you need to take medicines containing substances considered prohibited in the United Arab Emirates, it is imperative that you have a prescription from your doctor clearly indicating the names of the medicines. The latter must be in your name, dated and mentioning the treatment of an illness justifying the taking of these specific medications. Regarding the quantities (boxes of medicines) in your possession, they must be proportional to the prescriptions made by your doctor.

Certain medications containing so-called psychotropic substances are prohibited in the UAE. Recently, the Department of Health in Dubai ruled on banning the use of tranquilizers, antidepressants and in some cases sleeping pills. If you take these types of medication, make sure you have a prescription and if possible a letter from your doctor stating that you need them. It would be a good idea to have these same documents translated into English or Arabic and certified.

Also, it is very likely that you will not be able to refill any type of prescription in Dubai, as most pharmacies do not accept foreign prescriptions, so it is best to make sure you have the quantities you will need for the duration of your trip. But be careful! Bringing a large amount of a controlled medication, even with proper documentation, can increase the risk that you will be suspected of trafficking.

Note that the Emirates has a ZERO TOLERANCE policy regarding illegal drugs and medications and people with unauthorized medications face the same penalties as drug traffickers. The law will not distinguish between controlled medications and illegal drugs in this case.

You can find the list of drugs banned in the Emirates for consumption and import even if you have a prescription from your doctor here: Unauthorized Medicines List

For those who would need permission to import controlled medicines for personal use, the request can be made online at: www.mohap.gov.ae/.  These drugs relate to narcotics as well as controlled psychoactive substances.

Each legislation differs from one country to another, so we invite you to contact the official websites of the Ministry of Health of the country you are visiting for more information.

Lastly, if you have any questions or doubts it is advisable to contact the UAE Ministry of Health’s Drug Control Department at the following addresses and numbers:

  • Website: www.mohap.gov.ae
  • Abu Dhabi: + 971 2 633 0000
  • Dubai: +971 4 396 6000
  • Email: info@moh.gov.ae

So how do you get medicine in Dubai?

It’s very simple, the pharmacy system is more or less close to the French system, but the Emirati system still has its small differences.

For example, in Dubai, many medicines are available in pharmacies without a prescription that would require on in Western countries. This is the case with many antibiotics that can be purchased without a prescription in Dubai. Conversely, products that you could buy without a prescription in Europe sometimes require a prescription from your doctor in Dubai. In these cases, you will need to consult a local doctor to get a prescription. However, this is not a difficult process as appointments are readily available, even for new patients, and even without insurance, costs are not inhibitive.

Because Dubai does not distinguish between a Pharmacy and a Para-Pharmacy, you will often find a large selection of non-medical products like cosmetics, perfumes, etc. which are displayed on the shelves of pharmacies. Just note that their prices are probably higher in the pharmacy than in the supermarket next door. Also, certain common medications such as cough medicines, eye drops or even Panadol (paracetamol used for headaches and pains of all kinds – this is THE reference in the Emirates) are available over the counter in supermarkets and department stores.

We would like to remind you that the foreign authorities cannot under any circumstances intervene in local legal proceedings. You should be able to contact your embassy in the event of legal trouble, but they will most likely only be able to refer you to a list of lawyers. Therefore, it is advisable to be careful and learn about the rules in force in the territory of the Emirates.

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