If you take any medication consistently, whether an over-the-counter or prescription drug, you need a plan to bring it across borders. Some over-the-counter medicines in one country could require a prescription in another. Some drugs commonly prescribed in one area could be illegal in another. Other countries may not manufacture the type of medication you need, making traveling with prescription medicines overseas tricky.
You might want to use a workaround, such as having a friend or family member ship you drugs, but you could be breaking the law. To avoid potential consequences, you must pay close attention to government rules and regulations around shipping and bringing medications into a new country. Traveling with prescription drugs internationally takes careful planning.
To help maintain your health while staying out of trouble, you should prepare at home. Before moving abroad or traveling for an extended period, talk to your prescribing doctor about your medicines, get a good insurance policy, know the laws in your destination and organize your documents.
Planning to Travel Abroad? Consider Travel Insurance to cover unexpected medical emergencies.
Speak With Your Prescribing Doctor
As you prepare for traveling with prescription medication overseas, schedule a planning appointment with your doctor weeks or even months before you leave. Discuss your prescription medicines and your options for bringing them with you.
In some cases, your doctor may be able to prescribe you more medicine than usual. With pills, for example, your provider could write a refillable 90-day prescription rather than a 30-day prescription or give you some extra samples. Your doctor might also prescribe you a larger dose of medicine, give you 20 mg pills rather than 10 mg, and ask you to split them so they’ll last longer.
If your doctor cannot legally prescribe enough medication to last your entire stay, they can recommend an alternative to look for in the other country. Be sure to purchase international health insurance before traveling or moving. Your doctor can also tell you what to ask a new prescriber about replacing your current medication with the same effects.
You should also talk about the non-prescription medicines you take in case they’re unavailable or banned in your destination country. Your doctor may be able to write you a new prescription or a letter explaining why you need the medicines. They can use the same strategy as above and give you an alternative depending on the active ingredient if a certain brand is unavailable.
Which Medications are Illegal to Bring Abroad?
Some drugs are available over the counter in one country and unavailable or banned in your destination country. In the United States, for example, you can buy Sudafed at a local pharmacy or grocery store. In Japan, however, you’re not allowed to bring Sudafed over the borders as you would be breaking the law. Stimulants such as pseudoephedrine, the active ingredient in Sudafed, are illegal in Colombia and Mexico.
Other commonly used medications often banned in other countries include sleep aids such as Ambien, attention-deficit disorder medications such as Adderall and Ritalin, and pain relievers such as OxyContin and Vicodin.
Medication requiring syringes or other equipment, such as a diabetes pump, might also need to be pre-approved before entering a new country.
Your drugs may be confiscated if you do not comply with the rules and regulations while traveling with prescription medication overseas. Even worse, you could face a fine, deportation, or jail time.
Flying with Medications
Yes. You can take prescription medications on a plane. If you are flying internationally and need to bring your medications, there are some specific considerations. Much of the same advice applies: read up on the local laws and regulations, have your prescriptions available to show when requested, and let officials know in advance what you are bringing. The most challenging part of the trip will be getting through airport security. Plan to have extra time available to deal with additional security questions that may arise.
Packing your medications in checked baggage will be easier if you can. In the USA, the (TSA) does impose limits on the amount of liquids you can bring in your carry-on to 100 mL or 3.4 ounces. Liquid medications in containers above the set limits will cause problems, so be sure to bring small containers for those items when possible. Prescribed medications typically are not bound by these restrictions or limitations.
Transportation Security Administration (TSA) suggests that you carry only the prescription drugs and medical liquids you need during your flight in your carry-on bag. However, travel experts recommend you take all medications and medical supplies in your carry-on luggage when possible. Delays during your travels can leave you without enough medicine as you cannot access your checked baggage until you reach your final destination. There is an additional risk that your prescription drugs or medical supplies may disappear from checked baggage, or your baggage may be lost completely.
Medications that require storage at a specific temperature can be carried in a cooler with ice packs.
There are typically no limits on the amount of medication you can carry on as long as it is in pill or solid form.
Finally, we suggest keeping your medication in its original prescribed containers with appropriate labels.
Request Permission From the Embassy
If your medication is banned in your destination country but vital to your care, you can request to bring it in by contacting your home country’s embassy. You can also contact the embassy for help bringing larger quantities of your medicine in if the destination has a cap. If you’re struggling with how to travel with prescription drugs internationally, the embassy should be able to answer your questions.
You may also be wondering, can you send medication overseas? Many governments, such as the United States, do not allow you to mail medication. Only the DEA can ship medication. Other countries may be looser, however, depending on your documented medical necessity. The answer depends on your response from your home country’s embassy.
Secure Comprehensive International Health Insurance
With the rise of telemedicine, you may feel like setting up a virtual doctor’s appointment with your provider from home. Government regulations, however, do not allow doctors to treat patients across international borders.
If your doctor cannot send you to a new country with enough medication to last your full stay, you might need to seek out a new prescription in your destination. Visiting a doctor without health insurance, however, is expensive. And so is paying out of pocket for medication.
Before seeking out care outside of your home country, it’s important to invest in international insurance. If you choose a solid, comprehensive plan, your insurance company can help you locate in-network prescribing doctors abroad. If you’ve chosen a plan above the basic option, your insurance should also cover part or all the cost of your new prescription drugs. Insurance also helps financially protect you from other costs, such as lab tests if you need any before taking or monitoring your health while taking a new drug.
Organize and Document Your Prescriptions
Whether you’re bringing your own medicine abroad with you or will find a replacement after you move, there are general tips to follow either way. Make sure you know what you’re taking, and it’s been properly documented so you can best prepare to move abroad.
Before traveling with prescription medication overseas, it’s important to:
- Keep your medicines in their original containers
- Bring copies of your prescriptions with you
- Have a letter from your doctor explaining why you need your medicines
- Ensure your drugs have your full passport name on them
- Know the real name of your medication, not just the brand name
- Be able to identify the active ingredient in your medicine and the correct dosage
When traveling with prescription drugs internationally, proof that the drugs were prescribed by a doctor and belong to you is critical. Correct documentation goes a long way if anyone at customs questions your medication or devices.
If you research before traveling and connect with the right people, you should be able to maintain your health abroad. Unprepared people run into the most issues while trying to bring any medication in and out of a new country. If you realize the restrictions prevent you from receiving the best care, it might be time to reevaluate your travel or move plans because your health comes first.
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