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Can I get medication in the UK for a six-month trip to France?

Many Britons with second homes in France are now applying for visas to stay for up to six months. We look at the rules for taking medication across for that amount of time

Travelling from the UK to France with prescription medication is possible Pic: happy photo / Shutterstock

Reader question: Can I travel to France with medication from the UK and can I get medication for a six-month trip to France?

There are several factors to consider here. 

Firstly, it is possible to bring medication from the UK to France. 

However, supplies of more than three months cannot be prescribed by UK GPs. 

Finally, French pharmacists can technically provide patients with medication based on a UK prescription. Otherwise, if you plan to live in France long term you should register with a French GP who can set up a prescription for you based on your UK medical records. 

We explain these points.

Read more: How can I find an English-speaking GP near me in France?

Read more: How French residents can access healthcare in UK on trips

Travelling with prescription medication from the UK to France

French customs states that if you are bringing medication into the country, “the quantity carried must not exceed a personal use corresponding either to the duration of treatment provided for in the medical prescription or, in the absence of a prescription, to a three-month treatment period”.

It could be useful to keep your prescription handy in case customs or airport staff ask about the medication. You must have a prescription if travelling with narcotic or psychotropic drugs. 

Additionally, it could be – in rare instances – possible that medication prescribed in the UK is banned in France or banned by certain airlines. You should consult your UK GP before travelling to France to check this. 

It is unlikely to be the case as the UK was obliged to apply EU standards until the end of 2020. 

Maximum three-month prescriptions in UK

Under UK law, GPs in the UK are not supposed to give out prescriptions for treatment lasting more than three months, several GP practices in the UK confirm. 

Beaconsfield Medical Practice states:

“The NHS’s duty of care ends when a person has been absent, or intends to be away from the United Kingdom for a period of more than three months. 

“A supply of medications for up to three months can be made to allow the patient to find a prescriber at their destination. Two three-month prescriptions would not be acceptable under current legislation.”

Short-term travel

Post-Brexit UK passport holders can only spend up to 90 days in France at a time (without getting a visa), so this is not an issue in such a case.

Moving permanently to France

People who move to France permanently should enter into the French health system and find a French GP. 

One UK citizen known to The Connexion who did this said that he showed his UK NHS medical records to his French GP who was able to set up new French prescriptions based on this. 

The French GP, though, refused to prescribe one of the pills and suggested an alternative instead. This can sometimes occur due to the countries’ differences in preferences for certain treatments. 

Six-month trips with a visa

One increasingly popular option for UK citizens with second homes in France is to apply for longer-term visas that allow them to stay in France for up to six months at a time. 

The UK’s three-month prescription rule can be an issue in this case.

One solution if you have a repeat prescription could be trying to use the UK prescription at a French pharmacy. 

France’s Ordre National des Pharmaciens states that pharmacists can give patients who have prescriptions from non-EU countries medication if the prescription “appears authentic and understandable”. 

It means that French pharmacists may provide UK citizens with the necessary medication if they show their British prescription. 

Otherwise, the other option is to book an appointment with a French GP to see if they will give you a French prescription based on your UK prescription and/or NHS medical records. 

Read more: How can I find an English-speaking GP near me in France?

In general in France, GP appointments cost €25. This can be partially or fully reimbursed for people in the French health system, depending on if they have top-up health insurance. 

For people outside of the French system the amount would have to be paid in full. 

Related articles

Explainer: Why having a designated GP in France saves you money

Why your health reimbursements in France may not be arriving

Eight facts to understand France’s issue of ‘medical deserts’

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