By: Katharine Russo, PharmD Candidate c/o 2021
Flight tickets, check. Passports, check. Luggage, check. Month supply of Metformin, uh oh.
Two months separate many from the beginning of summer and the slew of travel plans already being made. Pharmacists are often your overlooked travel specialists during the summer months. Stop by your local pharmacy before your next trip to make sure you are all set to tackle the summer sun while staying adherent to your medication regimen.
If you are traveling within the United States or United States Territories and your normal pharmacy has locations there, you can fill your prescription while traveling. Community pharmacies such as Walgreens and CVS allow their patients to fill most of their prescriptions at any location in the United States to make staying healthy easy and convenient. There are certain regulations about which medications can be filled outside of stores they were received; stop by your local pharmacy before leaving to see if transfers are allowed for your medication regimen.1
Some insurance companies offer their patients “vacation overrides.” A vacation override allows a patient to receive a month’s worth of medication before they are due for their next refill to ensure they have enough medication to get them through the time they are away and traveling. Contact your pharmacy prior to travel to see if this is a benefit your prescription insurance offers.2
Ciao! Bonjour! Hola! Whether you are traveling to a bustling city center or a town off the beaten path, make sure you are prepared for different pharmacy laws and products abroad. It is suggested for all international travelers to obtain an official letter head note from your doctors describing all medications you are taking and a brief description of the condition(s) for which they are being used for. This is both for your safety should you be hospitalized or receive medical care and for your safety should your bags be searched at any time. Pharmacy laws vary from country to country; ensure that the medications you are taking here in the United States are not illegal in any country you are traveling too, including short lay-overs at airports. Some countries may allow any medication, but limit the quantity allowed which may not last you the entire trip. For example, Japan has a list of prohibited substances from entering their country including any products containing pseudoephedrine or ephedrine and in Sweden, narcotic drugs like Percocet, are only allowed across borders in quantities lasting a five-day supply.3 Often United States medication names hold different names abroad; familiarize yourself with the generic name of your medication as it may be more recognizable to a foreign pharmacy should you need to stop in one. Commonly prescribed Januvia® is available in Italy under its generic name, sitagliptin.4 Lastly, remember that prescription insurance is a United States benefit. Many countries abroad do not take prescription insurance so you will be paying out of pocket.5
When traveling via airplane, always ensure that medications are taken in carry on or personal bags. You never known if the airline will lose your baggage and you do not want to be without your medication. According to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), medication in capsule or tablet form can be brought in unlimited quantity onto a flight with proper screening, identification, and documentation. If it is a liquid medication over the standard 3.4 ounce limit, do not worry. Airlines allow liquid medication in excess of 3.4 ounces on the plane as long it is in reasonable quantity for the duration of the complete travel to your destination. Liquid medications will be subject to screening so be sure to tell the TSA officer if you are in possession of prescription liquid medication.6
- Transferring prescriptions. Walgreens. https://www.walgreens.com/topic/faq/questionandanswer.jsp?questionTierId=1000010&faqId=1300020. Accessed 04/19/2018.
- Medicare medication, prescription coverage and travel: traveling with medication Humana. https://www.humana.com/medicare/understanding-medicare/travel-prescription-coverage. Accessed 04/09/2018.
- Regulations by country. International Narcotics Control Board. http://www.incb.org/incb/en/psychotropic-substances/travellers_country_regulations.html. Last Updated 01/15/2018.Accessed 04/16/2018
- Merck & Co., Inc. a. Center for drug evaluation and research: Januvia. Food and Drug Administration. https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/nda/2010/021995Orig1s014.pdf. Published 02/26/2010.
- Medications when traveling internationally. Mobility International USA. http://www.miusa.org/resource/tipsheet/medications. Accessed 04/11/2018.
- Burns B. TSA Travel tips Tuesday – traveling with medication. Transportation Security Administration. https://www.tsa.gov/blog/2013/09/24/tsa-travel-tips-tuesday-traveling-medication. Published 09/24/2013. Accessed 04/11/2018