No VAT on drug imports to the UK

This thread is applicable to UK residents (and perhaps EU residents) only.

In common with several of the names that appear on this site, my activity here is not just limited to the public form. A great deal of the private message traffic that I am involved with features the central issue of obtaining meds. I suppose I would save much of my time if I just created a standard advice document and then just pasted it as a reply.

Usually, new members thank me for the advice and proceed along their merry way. Not so long ago one of our newer London-based members asked for guidance. There were several issues involved apart from just obtaining meds. I am dyslexic and it sometimes takes me a while longer to do written tasks. After a couple exchanges, I thought sod it, and we spoke and resolved things on the telephone. That member duly thanked me for my guidance. I take this opportunity to return the complement. He taught me a very valuable (£$£$£$£) lesson.

My last lot of meds was purchased for me by a fellow member here (and I can take this opportunity to thank her too). She made the purchase of my meds for me, not because I was too broke; no, she made the purchase because my address is clearly flagged by H.M. Customs and hers isn’t. When I order meds to here, instead of getting the meds, I get a red card through the door telling me that they’ve got my package and that I owe them £18.00 for Import Duty – which includes an £8.00 handling charge.

I have just finished reading a PM response from one of our lady members, thanking me for directing her to a suitable supplier. Unfortunately, she has been stung 1st time by Customs. She is now £17.00 worse off.

Now, here’s what I learnt from that newbie chappie that I was on the phone with. VAT is not payable on imported drugs. He was stung for many hundreds of pounds on some extremely expensive Lyme medication from New York. He explained to me that the pharmacy should have placed certain codes on the package denoting in was drugs and they didn’t. This chap was able to get all his money back from H.M. Customs. On reflection, I seem to remember my last package being labelled “Unrestricted drugs” … but then again, no duty was paid on that consignment.

I shall indeed write to my usual supplier and see if that they can resolve this issue from their end in house. I shall also steel myself to write to H.M. Customs - though as with any government department, I expect that they’ll just give me the run-around.



Thanks for the info, Supaguy.

I think it's probably more straight forward for anyone ordering from an oversea pharmacy but with a prescription, either a UK one or one from overseas if that's where their prescribing doctor is. Without a prescription, the overseas companies should not be sending to us anyway. So I doubt anyone would want to alert the authorities as to what is being sent in the packages.

I've spent a fortune on customs duties - though it does tend to be a bit random as to whether the duty is charged or not. I'm just grateful to get what I need and always fear anything which could in anyway jeopardise that.

Neuro symptoms & many health problems from 1989. NAC+all supps(04/11) CAP(05/11)

That's the trouble: I just paid when asked and kept quiet, but usually I wasn't asked for some reason.....................Sarah

Completed Stratton/Wheldon regime for aggressive secondary progressive MS in June 2007, after four years, three of which intermittent.   Still improving bit by bit and no relapses since finishing treatment.

Hi Sarah!

There are several possible reasons that you may not have been asked by UK Customs for surcharge money on your package. One possible reason is your package may have been correctly labelled as “Unrestricted drugs” on that occasion; I just don’t know; I’m trying to get to the bottom of it.

(edited by MacKintosh, 08 Nov 2015)



“Don't believe everything you read on the internet.”

―    Abraham Lincoln

Try keeping your orders small, below £50 and small enough to go through your letterbox: I think those were the ones I wasn't charged for...........Sarah 

Completed Stratton/Wheldon regime for aggressive secondary progressive MS in June 2007, after four years, three of which intermittent.   Still improving bit by bit and no relapses since finishing treatment.

Hi Bo!

I knew you had always been caught by the buggers. In my early days in this protocol I knew you were getting stung and I was going to offer to buy for you. I sort of knew that it was only a matter of time before they had me flagged too.

When the subject of obtaining meds is discussed on open forum, it can cause a rapid and distinct rise in editorial blood pressure that can result in rebuke or deletion of the entire thread. When I first noticed this phenomenon I just couldn’t understand it. Simply: laws, regulations and practices in different jurisdictions are very different from each other. I am not a lawyer but my understanding is that in, for instance the USA, whether you are carrying amphetamine or amoxicillin; if you haven’t got a valid prescription, you’re a felon. Australia is another place with strict rules. They are strict there but they are different.

My post was about the UK. The newbie chap that alerted me to this issue would certainly have had a valid script in order to have had this medicine sent from New York. He got his money back.

I can have a valid script for roxithromycin if I want. Boots the chemist (pharmacy) will charge me as a special £129.50 for five days’ supply.  I have declined their quote and instead decided to buy 150 days’ supply for £72.59 (GBP). I am pretty innumerate and it was a tough one to work out but in the end, I went for the imported roxi.

I’m not too positive of laws & regs in the UK but I know of a few things of the past. It has been a criminal offence to sell alcohol to a person under 18. It is a criminal offence for a person under 18 to buy or attempt to buy. It used to be an offence for a person to sell tobacco products to a person under the age of 16. However it was not an offence for a person under the age of 16 to buy or attempt to buy tobacco products.

Similarly to the above, I don’t believe that UK law prohibits the import of non-controlled drugs for personal use. To be clear, I am talking about Prescription Only Medications (POM) here. If one then goes on to sell or attempt to sell, that person would then be in breach of the law – including the 1968 Medicines Act.

In my case, if H.M. Customs want to see a script, I can easily supply one, two or any other number that they want. I think that what they really want is their cut of the money. Mind, as you and I are both UK residents, we will be aware that Customs make up their own laws. Anyone that’s been on a booze cruise to Calais for the day may well be aware of that. Bo, I do not believe that you or I contravene any UK laws and I don’t think that the companies that we buy from do either.

Anyway, I shall certainly write to my on-line pharmacy with suggestions. I shall keep those that are interested duly posted.

I underline, the subject matter above refers to the UK.



“Don't believe everything you read on the internet.”

―    Abraham Lincoln

I guess I've already seen far too many pharmacies 'disappear' in my time here. If HMRC want me to financially support them, this is one instance where I'm inclined to pay up and keep quiet. Anything to protect the pharmacy, so that I can get well!

Neuro symptoms & many health problems from 1989. NAC+all supps(04/11) CAP(05/11)

After paying more VAT and post office handling charges, I steeled myself to tackle Her Majesty’s Border force as well as Her Majesty’s Customs. There are some horrible and arrogant people working allegedly on my behalf. I spoke to one Glaswegian chap whose parents definitely didn’t marry.

In short, if you are importing goods into the UK, those leaches will charge you VAT unless the goods are labelled with the correct commodity code.  For example:


Roxithromycin 3004200000

Tinidazole 3004900000

Ivermectin 3004900000


So, if you are importing prescription medicines into the UK, your supplier must label with the correct commodity code or the leaches will rip you off for VAT. I know that quite a few of us have been done by those buggas before.

If you need to get the correct commodity code for any product, here is the email address that will give you the answer:

Remember, there is no VAT on prescription medicines.

In the UK, it is legal to import medicine for your personal use or for members of your close family.

Below is a virtual copy of our government’s response to me. The spelling mistakes are hers, not mine (dyslexia rools. Ko).


“From: <>

Date: 9 February 2016 at 09:21

Subject: supaguy - 09022016 - G SMITH




Thank you for your email enquiry as detailed below.

From the information you have supplied in your email, my advice is that if these are  medicaments in the pure form, put up in measured doses or in forms or packags for retail sale.


Roxithromycin 3004200000

Tinidazole 3004900000

Ivermectin 3004900000


However please note that the code I have supplied is specific to the information you have provided in your email.  If your product varies in any way to what has been described, it may be that a different code is applicable. I would therefore suggest you use the free online UK Trade Tariff available on the GOV.UK website at to look up any additional codes you may require.

We do our best to provide accurate and up to date tariff classification advice using the information you have provided.   Our advice is not legally binding and should be accepted as guidance only.

Legally binding rulings can be obtained by submitting an electronic application via the Government Gateway.  Further information on how to submit an application is available from the GOV.UK website at

For your additional information, details of the duties that are payable at any given time are also set out in the online UK Trade Tariff.  Users should read the UK Trade Tariff terms and conditions which explains the legal status of duty rate information.


Glynis Smith

Tariff Classification

10th Floor | Alexander House | 21 Victoria Avenue | Southend on Sea | SS99 1AA

Fax Number: 03000594269

Access the full UK Trade Tariff at

Tongue Out


“Don't believe everything you read on the internet.”

―    Abraham Lincoln

If you keep your orders low: below £34, even if they are not listed as a gift, you probably won't be charged import duty.  I think that must have been why I rarely was charged, but when I ordered a load of paints unobtainable here, I was charged both the 20% tax and handling charges.  The paints are beautiful, though and now most of thm can be bought here!.......................Sarah

Completed Stratton/Wheldon regime for aggressive secondary progressive MS in June 2007, after four years, three of which intermittent.   Still improving bit by bit and no relapses since finishing treatment.