Taking medication abroad

Has anyone seen the BBC news article about a British woman being arrested and now faces 25 years in prison or the death penalty for taking Naproxen and Tramadol tablets in her case to Egypt? The street value of £23. Reportedly for her husband who suffers from back pain.

I have that medication with me and carry injection medication too when I go abroad. I’ve never given it a thought that one could be braking the law in

an other country. Is it wise to get a letter from the GP or hospital to say the medication you are carrying is for your own medical condition?

Many thanks



Featured Content

What’s your health story?

We're sharing inspiring health stories of some of our members

Watch John's story

Featured by HealthUnlocked

38 Replies

  • It's not comprehensive nor to be relied upon but I find the discussions here about travelling with pain medication to be helpful: travelswithpain.wordpress.c...

    tbh, I'd never travel to some countries with some medication, even if I had documentation - I just wouldn't take the risk.

  • Thanks for this. The poor woman is being accused of drug trafficking!

  • If it was a young lad carrying nearly 300 dangerous and addictive opiod tablets across a border to give to a mate would you feel the same?

  • I always carry my prescription with me, just in case. And have a letter for the MTX. I do also check local regulations if going to weird places - not that I've managed much long haul travellling in the last few years!

    But apparently she had 290 tramaodol tablets that weren't for her, so I wonder how she got them? UK doctors should not prescribe that amount at one time for anyone....let alone the husband of someone. And it is not the normal amount for a holiday! Which suggests to me she had no prescription for them. So certainly silly behaviour, and possibly does equate to drug trafficking. But even so she shouldn't be faced with such harsh penalties.

  • Yes, I wonder where she got them? You are right silly behaviour, although I think her husband lives there so taking them in bulk. I’m suspecting there maybe more to it than meets the eye!

  • It's a very odd story. In some accounts, she was intending them for her husband who is Egyptian so should certainly have been up to speed on prohibitions against opioids in his own country.

  • I disagree I’m afraid- the law is the law and travelling to other countries, we have a duty to respect that? As well as an obligation to carry required documentation . As travellers, the onus is on us to find this out?

    It’s possible that these were for her husband, and for anyone suffering, I have sympathy but they clearly weren’t prescribed for him ( in this number, nor for her), which in itself is against the law.

    I think it’s a dangerous thing if we begin bending the law for some and not others?

    As HH suggested , if it were a young guy saying he was taking them for a friend , would we assess it in the same way?

    Unfortunate situation but a very ill thought out thing to do that unfortunately has, in this case, harsh consequences?

  • Yes, I agree. But awake up call for me. It’s very important we check these things when going over a border. I would never carry any form of medication for someone else to be honest. Live and learn ...

  • I agree. We should. I have travelled with MTX, tramadol, dihydrocodeine and have never encountered any difficulties but I’ve ensured I have what I need in terms of proof they’re prescribed for me and I carry only what I need for the time I am away.

    Always better to be safe, than sorry.

  • I usually have a hundred cocodamol dispensed a month

  • Well don't try to take them into the Middle East,without a clearance letter from their UK Embassy...or whatever they say you need, to take them into their country!

  • Hello AgedCrone have you taken MTX injections into Dubai? If so was there a problem? Also I'll be taking Benapali injections too plus the usual pain relief

  • No, fortunately I hadn't been diagnosed with RA when I was flying......in fact the thought made me smile...tottering along in 3" heels & heaving a heavy suitcase around would have been an impossibility!

    Look up the UAE Website...if there is no answer there...I would think there is a phone number for enquiries.

  • Hi pamak

    I'll be travelling to Australia via Dubai in March and will be taking 5 benepali pens and 8 mtx tablets. Plus folic acid tablets Plus levothyroxine tablets. I'm hoping it all won't be a problem

  • Unfortunately you get caught with that number of pills, you are judged by the laws of the country you are trying to enter.

    I agree 25 years is horrific ....but how could she even think of taking so many prescription drugs anywhere? I would imagine her husband is working out there.

    Hopefully this horror story will wake people up that you just don't swan around the world with a pharmacy in your suitcase !

  • Exactly!

  • My daughter says co codamol cannot be taken to Dubai.

    Usually I take my repeat prescription with me as evidence.

    I’ve never been stopped as for a week take 20 for approx one week as I take with paracetamol.

  • Wow! 100 a month, i.e. 3-4 a day? That's quite a lot. Poor you!

    I hope when you said above that you take with paracetamol you meant that the tablets are the standard codeine & paracetamol? And not that you take extra paracetomol alongside them as that would be getting to risky levels.

  • No I don’t take extra paracetamol I have 1 cocodamol and 1 paracetamol together otherwise I have constipation problems

  • A repeat prescription won't help where a drug is banned ...you need something from their Embassy to say you have permission to import it......& it might not be given.

    I flew around the world for a living for 25 years, & believe me incidents like this woman aren't that rare...they just don't make the press ...so BE CAREFUL!

  • I have taken both mine and my husbands medication with us when going abroad, one being Egypt. I always leave them in the box dispensed in, labels still on. I carry our up to date prescriptions, and a covering letter from our GP. But I also look into the legalities of taking medication in to other countries as best I can, it's not foolproof as laws change quickly. But at least I feel covered by doing everything I can. Rie

  • Egypt, the Gulf States & the Middle East are very strict on what drugs you can take in to their country....in most anything containing Codeine is a big No No.

    You should look on the FCO website, & also the websites of the countries you are visiting to see what it says on medication.

    I would also phone their Embassy in UK & ask what you need to import any medication.....just your prescription, or an official letter from your doctor.?

    Don't take any chances & declare any medication you have before they find it......as I think happened with the lady in Egypt.

  • Golly! I must be very naive. It just never occurred to me that my meds could contravene the laws of a country I was entering. Thanks for alerting me to this possibility.

  • If you take your prescription with you you should be ok.They weren't for her either and were given to her to give to her husband which equates as drug trafficking. Harsh sentence but you should check foreign rules.

  • Afraid you are wrong Fra22.... If the drug you want to import is banned in the country you are entering that is exactly what it means..BANNED.

    The officials at the airport have no leeway, drugs on banned list...it does not come into the country unless you have a dispensation obtained before you leave UK.

  • Yes as I said you should check foeign rules.too risky to do otherwise

  • There was an article saying that ISIS give Tramadol to their fighters (at a price) to help with aches and pains before going into battle. It helps with pain as well as for its opioid effects. I imagine that is why it’s presence is not popular in the Middle East.

  • Always carry a letter from your medical person stating everything you are carrying, including any vitamins etc so that when you go through customs they can read it if needed. I have travelled a lot with drugs to Asian countries where death penalty is first choice of punishment, so always carry a letter with any drugs at all times. If I have anything on me ie. pain relief, including if I go shopping or out for dinner I take a copy of the letter. Take a few copies so the one you carry doesn't end up looking like a dog ate it and hard to read. A plastic sleeve works.

  • I wouldn't try that!

    Just ask before you leave the UK if whatever drug you want to import is allowed to be imported into the country you are visiting,

    Personally I wouldn't want to sample a foreign prison....officials don't care if you will be in pain without your meds, & in a lot of countries with theses Draconian rules the airport officials can't read English!

  • I live in Australia and that is what I was advised to do travelling in Asia and US. They have to get someone to translate the letter if it accompanies meds and you are carrying the prescriptions and letter. I also never ever put them in my luggage always carry on and never had any trouble. It is for personal use and I only take the amount needed while I am away. I always check with the country I am going to to ensure I am abiding by their laws and as long as you do that you are covered, but as I said I always carry the letter if I have any drugs on me even while out doing the tourist thing in case anything happens they also have my dr contact and access to my medical records.

  • I have read that story and there are a somr problems within that story. The medication she had with her did not have her name on it nor did it have her husband's name on it. And another thing is that no doctor would give her a prescription for her husband without seeing her husband first.

  • I have a letter from the hospital saying why I use the injections and I always take my repeat prescription with me. Mind you we always drive to France, Spain etc so not sure what happens in airports.

  • On the whole European countries aren't the problem ...it's the Middle & Far East that usually have these strict rules. But USA also refuses entry to some medication..just ask.before.you.go!

  • Really😱

  • Tramadol has to be signed for by the person its intended for when the prescription is ordered at doctors and again when taken to pharmacy.

    It is now a controled drug.

  • In her case she was taking medication over for her husband, not herself and that amounts to dealing. Travelling to Muslim countries in particular, that also includes stop overs or flight transfers, who are very hard on drugs even prescription ones, you can and should register the prescription with the local embassy, but like any bureaucracy the border officials can ignore it and arrest you. They take a very hard line with codeine and in some you will have to get it from the local hospital based upon your UK prescription and doctors letter.

    The moral is always check online about prescription medication when travelling to ANY country, including EU and always take a copy of your prescription.

  • I did my first long trip overseas from Australia ( 8 weeks) in 2005 (with my husband) and had to get embassy documentation for Singapore (NO opioids-I used Panadeine Forte for pain relief when I get migraine-absolutely forbidden there).There was a lot of to-ing and fro-ing with the a govt dept in Singapore (address from the consulate in Canberra,Aust.) and after 2 months I finally got permission to take it into the country IN MY CARRY-ON ONLY. It was stated that it must NOT be in checked luggage in the plane,even when not accessible!!!.

    Then there was Greece! Once again, no prescription pain med with an opioid in it (even with GP's script and letter).I had to have documents signed IN PERSON by the Australian Greek Consul !!! She was most insulting about my need for ALL my meds (even the ones not prohibited- she seemed to be suggesting I was a hypochondriac!! I was really humiliated!!) Anyway, I said what I had to to get the papers signed.There was another country too(forget which now) but it was OK with just GP's letter. I contacted every single consulate of every one of the 10 countries we were visiting/passing through. One consul actually thought I was joking until I told him what other countries insisted upon.

    My meds for the 8 weeks took up a whole carry-on duffel bag. All had to be in original boxes/containers,with all scripts/letter on pharmacy letterhead,GP's letter on letterhead, all documentation from 'difficult' countries. I was not allowed to even take out beforehand the doses I needed to the 30 hour trip from Australia via Singapore to Ireland!! I felt very conspicuous doling out my meds from a huge bag in front of everyone on the plane!!

    NOT ONCE was I challenged at an airport/immigration checkpoint about my carry-on contents or asked to show my documents!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    However, better safe than sorry, I figured. Maybe one of the hardest things was trying to get my meds into dosette containers (a.m. and p.m. tablets) with REALLY bad jetlag. I ended up having 3 attempts over 3 days!!!! :-)

    It's all quite a story now, but a real pain at the time. Later trips weren't as trying as this one, not even the USA. At least I didn't have NEEDLES to worry about as I elected to forgo my Simponi for the times I was away in 2010 & 2015, as I couldn't keep it at the right temp, and it's too expensive a script to waste our taxpayers' money.

  • Reading through all the problems and suggestions here, it will be good for me to check online to ensure I can bring in my mtx and ARAVA into India. Do anyone know if there is any issue with the 2 DMARDs in India please? I will be going there in mid Dec.

You may also like...