Prescription drug rules can be a real headache for unsuspecting vacationers

Easter is approaching and thousands of vacationers are planning a sunny trip abroad. With so many things travelers need to think about before they go, it can be easy to overlook the rules and regulations around medication.

Anyone relying on prescription medication for a health condition, so plan ahead to ensure they have enough supply to cover a trip. However, it is also important to check if the items can be confiscated by customs, if it is easy to obtain replacements if lost abroad and even if certain types of drugs are even legal in certain destinations.

Just because you’ve been prescribed a drug at home doesn’t mean it’s legal abroad, especially if you’re traveling outside of Europe. Rich Quelch, of Origin pharmaceutical experts, offers his advice on how to travel legally and safely with prescription drugs during the Easter holidays.

The most common problematic medications include the opioids codeine and tramadol, sleeping pills, hormone replacement therapy, and antidepressants. Countries like Dubai, Egypt, Turkey, and Indonesia have very strict policies when it comes to certain prescription drugs.

For example, most sleeping pills, ADHD drugs, and codeine drugs are banned in Indonesia. In Qatar, antidepressants and hormone replacement therapy are illegal. And people have been detained in countries like the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Turkey for traveling with tramadol. Surprisingly common ingredients found in some cold and flu remedies are also banned in Dubai.

Travel with the right documents

Most countries require a license issued by a general practitioner who must indicate the amount of medication needed throughout a stay. It is advisable to contact a GP at least six weeks before travel, so that items can be checked for any ‘controlled substances’ before departure.

Always keep a copy of a prescription to avoid any problems upon arrival at your destination. If possible, bring a translated version of the prescription documents – this can help speed up verification. Diabetics must wear certified details to cover all blood glucose monitoring devices, needles and syringes, and insulin levels.

For travel, this note should clearly state the need to carry all equipment in carry-on baggage. Those concerned about whether any medications or treatments may be prohibited can recheck the entry requirements for their chosen destination on the UK government website.

Carry a copy of any prescription

Keep all medication in its original packaging

Whether you’re traveling with prescription, over-the-counter, or widely available medications, always keep them in their original packaging. This will help any authorities, or even medical professionals, to identify what you are taking and your health needs if you end up in hospital overseas.

If a drug cannot be identified in an unlabeled jar or box, it can be confiscated – even if it is something as innocent as paracetamol or hay fever tablets.

Do not put important medications in checked baggage

Due to the risk of lost baggage, it is safer to treat prescription drugs the same as any other valuables, to keep them in carry-on baggage. It also allows easy access to medication during a flight and in the event of delays in retrieving checked baggage.

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Only travel with what is necessary

Only travel with a reasonable amount of prescription medication to cover the duration of the trip and a few extra days. Also, don’t worry about the 100ml fluid limit if the drug falls into this category. The rules are flexible and exemptions can be granted for legitimate cases. Just be sure to contact your airline and airport to make special arrangements before departure.

Store medicines under the recommended conditions

Any medicine packaging and instructions will give information on how it should be stored safely – often out of direct sunlight, in dry conditions and at cool temperatures. It can be easy to forget when you reach your destination, so stop and think before you relax and enjoy your vacation.

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