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A friend of mine has asked to carry medicines from India to UK. She is also going to provide me the prescription for those medicines.

However, I am a bit reluctant because the prescription that she has provided is under my name as opposed to under her name. She tells me that carrying medicines for one's own use is better accepted than carrying for a friend.

She also tells me that these medicines are normal medicines for any woman and there should be no problem in carrying them.

It is only my second trip to UK and I am confused.

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I am also puzzled by the phrase "normal medicines for any woman" -- Smita, if you are a woman you would recognize a normal medicine, right? And if you are not, bringing in obviously female medication (birth control? hormone replacement?) with a prescription to yourself is going to freak out the border officers in a major way. Ascribing a gender to this medication makes me a lot more suspicious of it. I could be wrong, it could be Midol, but still - if it's not for you, don't pretend it is, right? –  Kate Gregory Jan 20 at 14:03
    
A false prescription sounds like a bad idea in any case but beyond that it's difficult to know how dangerous all this really is in practice. Maybe you could specify what those medicines are so that someone could weigh in on their legality in the UK or any potential for abuse. Do you intend to procure the medicines yourself from some reputable source or did your friend already provide you with a package? –  Relaxed Jan 20 at 15:06
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Maybe I'm missing some part of this, but who is the prescription for? Your friend or someone else? Is your friend going to give you a prescription for herself while she travels with you, or is she not going from India to the UK? –  JFA Jan 20 at 16:00
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You may probably get better answers if you tell what medication you are asking about. –  Tor-Einar Jarnbjo Jan 20 at 17:08
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@Keith It would be great if you could put your excellent response in an answer! –  AsianSquirrel Jan 21 at 3:12

7 Answers 7

There are a few problems here.

Why is your friend asking you to bring medicine for her? Is it just cheaper overseas?

Secondly, it's actually illegal in some places to get a prescription written in someone else's name. How did she get one written for you? I'd be asking questions.

Finally, on any flight, you're asked if 1) you're carrying something for someone else and 2) whether you're carrying restricted items such as medicine/drugs. It's highly unlikely they're going to ask more than seeing the prescription matches your name, but in the event it leads to further questioning, the fact that you're carrying medicine for someone, with essentially the wrong name on it, is going to lead to a lot more questions.

At the very least, a letter from her explaining this should be required, and a check to make sure that the drugs aren't restricted drugs in either India, the UK or anywhere in between that you may be stopping in.

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Mark: when my wife and I were in India we could buy any medicine we want without prescription. So if one has a prescription, even if it's for other person, I believe that this is the minor problem in India. (Also, in my home country, Spain, you can get most medicines with other person prescription and a signed authorization). –  Ivan Jan 20 at 9:16
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@Ivan yeah, that's why I said "some" - I'd rather they checked themselves to make sure it's legal there. Certainly when I was in Ecuador, I could buy anything over the counter as well. I was trying to make it useful to others reading it as well :) –  Mark Mayo Jan 20 at 9:19
    
@Ivan You cannot buy any medicine without a prescription, but yes the amount you can buy is far greater than in the US or Europe. The rules on this are more lax than other places but they have stringent rules nonetheless. Try getting some sleep medication and you will find yourself in a situation. Medicines which can be fatal or can cause serious damage when taken in larger quantities are strictly controlled. –  Aditya Somani Jun 20 at 4:54

It really really depends what the medicines are. When my mother had to unexpectedly spend months in the UK to deal with family illnesses, deaths, moving a 97-year old from somewhere she'd lived 30 years etc, I brought her a lot of things from here because she wanted the familiar brands. Things like vitamins and non prescription painkillers. I was not risking jail by doing this.

The mere fact that the friend is offering a prescription might not mean the medications are controlled, but it might. Never bring anything into another country if you don't know what it is. When you do know what it is, a quick search on the UK customs site should tell you if it is ok to bring in. The "hack" of it's ok if it's prescribed to you is not one you should be using. If it's not ok don't do it.

You also need to think about answering the question "are you carrying something for somebody else?" These two answers are not the same:

yes, this bag here has some drugs my friend arranged for me to bring. I don't know what they are.

Or

No, but I am bringing a few things from home for the friends I am visiting

You may still be asked what you are bringing and why but it's not such an obvious red flag. They are asking about "carrying for somebody else" more than "something for somebody else", if that makes sense.

Finally, trust your nervousness. You are the one who will be punished if what you are bringing is something illegal. Do not go along with schemes to lie and create fake paperwork. Do not accept blandishments and reassurances like "normal medicines for any woman" - get the full legal name of the drug and research if it is allowed or not, or don't take it.

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Short: You are putting yourself at immense risk by agreeing to do this.
Very best case it is almost certainly illegal.
Worst case you could end up in a UK prison. Really.

Longer:

This is potentially VERY risky.
VERY RISKY.
VERY.

Worst case outcome is years in prison.
Even the best case outcome here if you are honest with the authorities is some very stiff questioning and quite possibly confiscation of the drugs.

If you know and trust the friends and are completely completely completely sure that she would not be trying to import illegal drugs, then it would be very risky.
Still.

the prescription that she has provided is under my name as opposed to under her name.

This is illegal.
If you do not tell the UK customs that this is the case and they find this to be the case then you risk penalties, even if the drugs are legitimate ones.

She tells me that carrying medicines for one's own use is better accepted than carrying for a friend.

This is true IF and ONLY IF they are for your own use.
If not, then honesty is far less risky.

How would they know?
If they were suspicious, and it's their job to be, they may ask you questions.
Can you answer all the following?
What are the drugs?
What do you use them for?
Who prescribed them?
When ?
What was the Doctors name?
Why don't you know???? !!!
If you go so far as learning all this in order to pass through UK customs, then you deserve to have problems. Alas, the sort of problems you could have could be far beyond what you deserve.

Carrying them for a friend with a friend's name on the prescription MAY be OK if you tell this to the customs in your customs declaration BEFORE they start asking you questions.
The customs officials can then decide whether to

  • allow them in as is (unlikely),
  • test and allow,
  • confiscate (quite likely)
  • test and find that they are illegal drugs contrary to label and then decide what to do.

You MAY survive the last case IF you tell them everything honestly BEFORE they ask.
Once they find things which you have not told them then you risk penalties.

She also tells me that these medicines are normal medicines for any woman and there should be no problem in carrying them.

If this is the case, ask yourself "Why is she getting them from India?" There MAY be a good answer but there may not. THey MAY be cheaper in India by far. They may not be available at all in the UK, even if legitimate.

This is your life, your future and your ability to enter the UK in future that is at risk.
At best your friends is saving money or gaining something that is OK in India but may be illegal in the UK.
Worst case you are being used.
This happens often worldwide. The international drug trade depends on people being prepared to do unwise things (like this) or desperate things.

I am confused.

Don't be.
Either do everything absolutely honestly and openly and declare it in advance, or risk the consequences.

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"You MAY survive the last case IF you tell them everything honestly BEFORE they ask." This may be true if you illegally bring relatively innocuous items, but if the medicine turns out to be illegal drugs, the only phrases you're allowed to use are: 'I have nothing to say' and 'I wish to speak to an attorney'. Explain your situation in court, not at the border. –  Marcks Thomas Jan 20 at 13:08

Don't do it. DON'T DO IT! The likelihood that your friend actually knows whether or not the medicines are permitted imports to the UK is not high. She expects you to take the trouble and the risk of importing them — why should she take the trouble of confirming they're okay with the UK authorities? She can't be honest, or she wouldn't be asking you to show officials a fake prescription — which just coincidentally keeps her out of the picture if things turn sour. At the very least, this person is exploitative.

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In the same line as others: DON'T DO IT.

And here are the reasons:

  • a medicine can also be a controlled substance, similar to any drug. A prescription of it won't make things legal.
  • if the medicine was so important, why didn't she think of bringing plenty of it?
  • if he really needs the medicine, she will find a doctor to get it in the UK
  • you are doing it with false documents. That's already something illegal.
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All prescribed medicines in the UK cost a flat £7.85, thanks to us having nationalised health. For many people (children, elderly, etc) they are free. It's very unlikely that they would be cheaper abroad.

Some over the counter medicines may be cheaper than £7.85 (for instance Paracetamol) but only the ones you can buy in any chemist.

Anything not prescribed by a UK doctor is not legal in the UK and is insanely risky to bring through UK customs. Even where they are 'normal medicines for any woman' you could face a prison term for carrying them illegally.

All prescribed medicines are quite strictly controlled in the UK. While customs officials may well be unlikely to check they tend to come down very hard on foreign nationals found carrying anything they shouldn't.

Tell your friend to visit a UK doctor.

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Trust me Keith, medicines in India are CHEAP. Paracetamol in India costs about $0.10 for 10 tablets of 500mg. Any and I mean any generic drug in India will likely be about 5x cheaper in India than in the UK. As far as non-generic drugs go, they are imported into India or manufactured under license, so they will be the same cost. –  Aditya Somani Jun 20 at 5:01
    
Here's a link for one of the most popular Paracetamol + Ibuprofen combinations available in the market - medindia.net/drug-price/paracetamol-combination/… –  Aditya Somani Jun 20 at 5:06
    
@AdityaSomani paracetamol is not a prescription drug in the UK, you can buy it over the counter and carry it in luggage. –  Keith Jun 21 at 21:10
    
Indeed it is not, it is not a prescription drug almost anywhere on the planet. My point was to provide a price comparison. You have a large table of medicines on the website. Please feel free to choose a drug and compare prices. –  Aditya Somani Jun 21 at 23:52

Depends on the type of medicine and the countries you are travelling thru. Most medications, if you have a prescription on YOUR name are not a problem and things like viagra are many times cheaper in indian than the uk. Common understanding you're allowed to bring with you some amount of personal medication (14 to 30 days worth I think) and of course you should bring the prescription. There are some exceptions, notably psychostimulants (Ritalin etc) and arabian nations.

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-1 this is incorrect. I don't know what the medications cost in India, but in the UK all prescribed medicines cost the same flat rate of £7.85. Sometimes trivial medications can be even cheaper than that, but only over-the-counter stuff you can buy in any high street. –  Keith Jan 23 at 10:34
    
@Keith No, some medicines are NOT covered by the NHS and sometimes GPs will steer your towards drugs which are out-of-patent (and therefore have generics available), rather than something else that may work better. (I'm talking about antidepressants from personal experience.) –  Ankur Banerjee Jan 23 at 19:17
    
@AnkurBanerjee some aren't, but you don't want to get caught carrying any of them through UK customs. Some GPs are definitely better than others, and the big centres they have now aren't a patch on what they were. However, the main reasons for GPs excluding drugs are either a) too expensive for the benefits in which case the drugs are expensive everywhere or b) been shown to not work/be detrimental (such as many anti-anxiety drugs that we now know make it worse long term, like Valium) in which case you don't want the alternate prescription. –  Keith Jan 23 at 22:02

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