Tips for Traveling With Prescription Drugs

Preparing monthly pill organizer.

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Traveling with prescription drugs is a simple process, provided you pack them properly and keep them safe. Here are some things to consider.

Check Your Supply

You will need enough doses of each of your prescription drugs to last for your entire trip, plus several extra doses in case you are delayed while traveling. Talk with your doctor if your insurance provider will not issue extra doses to you. Your doctor should be able to work with your insurance company and pharmacy to get you the extra medications you need. If you take any over-the-counter medications, be sure you have enough of them on hand, too. 

Research Restrictions

Certain types of prescription drugs are illegal in some countries. For example, you cannot bring amphetamines or methamphetamines into Japan, even in prescription form. Pseudoephedrine (Sudafed) and Adderall are also illegal there. To find out about prescription drug restrictions, call your destination country's embassy or visit the embassy's website.

Some countries restrict the importation of medical equipment, such as CPAP machines and syringes. If you use medical equipment, you will need to find out which forms to file and where to send them so that you can bring your equipment with you. Contact your destination country's embassy for information.

Prepare for Storage

Carry all of your prescription drugs in their original containers, even if you normally use a weekly or monthly pill dispenser box. If you are asked to prove that you are the patient entitled to each prescription, the original container will serve as that proof. Bring your empty pill dispenser with you and set it up when you reach your destination.

If you are traveling by air, train or bus, keep all of your prescription drugs with you in your carry-on bag. Thieves are always on the lookout for prescription medications. You will lose valuable travel time replacing your drugs if your prescription medications are stolen. Also, some drugs need to be stored in temperature-controlled environments. Cargo holds are typically much warmer in summer and much cooler in winter than the passenger compartment of your airplane, train or bus.

Road trippers should also plan to store prescription drugs in the passenger compartment of their car unless the outside temperatures are moderate. If you plan to leave your prescription drugs in your car while you see the sights, consider moving them to the trunk if the interior of your parked car will warm up so much that your medications might be damaged, or bring a cold tote and freezer blocks with you for medications storage. If you do not have access to a freezer, bring a large zipper-closure plastic bag and fill it daily with ice from your hotel.

Plan Your Dosage Schedule

If your travel plans take you across one or more time zones, you may need to change the time you take your medications each day during your trip. Talk with your doctor and create a dosage schedule. 

If you must take your prescription drugs precisely on schedule, regardless of time zone, buy a multi-time zone watch or alarm clock to help you track your dosage times and wake up during the night. Test it before you leave home.

If you have Internet access while you travel, consider setting up a medication dosage reminder, perhaps through Microsoft Outlook or via the MyMedSchedule website and smartphone app. 

Carry Documentation

The best way to prove that your prescription drugs belong to you is to bring with you not only the prescriptions in their original containers but also a written prescription from your doctor or healthcare provider. A copy of your personal medical record, signed by your doctor, will further demonstrate your ownership of your prescription drugs.

If you are traveling far from home, ask your doctor for a new prescription form for all of the medications you take, just in case the prescription medications you are carrying are lost or stolen. Ask your doctor to write each prescription on a separate form, as some pharmacies will not fill a single prescription if it is listed on a multi-prescription form.

Bring your doctor's and pharmacist's telephone numbers with you on your trip.

Learn About Emergency Refills

Getting an emergency refill while on vacation can be very difficult.

If your prescriptions are on file with a national chain and you are still within the borders of your home country, you should be able to go to a local branch of the pharmacy and have your prescription temporarily transferred to that location.

You may find yourself in a situation where you have to refill your prescription at a pharmacy that is not part of your healthcare network, either because you are overseas or because there is no local branch of your pharmacy nearby. You will probably have to pay the full cost of the prescription and file an insurance claim form when you return home. Be sure to save your receipts and all other documentation to submit with your claim.

If you normally use a military pharmacy and did not bring an emergency prescription form written by your doctor with you on your trip, you will need to contact your doctor and ask that a new prescription be faxed to the military pharmacy at your vacation location. Most US military pharmacies will not fill your prescription at a location other than your home pharmacy unless you are on active duty.

In some US states, such as Florida and Texas, pharmacists are permitted to issue emergency refills for a 72-hour supply of medication without contacting your doctor. In case of natural disaster, you may be able to get up to a 30-day supply, even if the dispensing pharmacist cannot contact your doctor.

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