In this post in our series on travel, we'll be looking at some things to consider if you're travelling with medication.
If you’re travelling overseas and will be taking medicines with you, it’s important to plan ahead to make sure that you can travel with your medication and have enough to last until you come home.
This will include making sure that you have enough medication to last until you’re back from your trip, including if your return is delayed for any reason. You can ask your GP to prescribe extra medicine, although there are usually limits on how much can be prescribed in one go.
It’s also important to remember that medication is often prescribed in courses of 28 days, so if you’re going away for a month you’ll need to ask for some more. If you can’t get a prescription that will last for the duration of your trip, you’ll need to find out how you can access it at your destination. You may need to register temporarily with a doctor there and go to a local pharmacy.
In some parts of the world, especially some developing countries, the medicines available may not contain the same ingredients as the ones at home. It’s important to use a licenced pharmacy and ask the pharmacist to confirm that any medications you get contain the same active ingredients as your usual medicine. The British embassy in the country you’re visiting will be able to advise you on local healthcare. There is a list of embassies at gov.uk/world/embassies .
Another thing to keep in mind is storing your medication on the journey and at your destination. Some medicines need to be kept at the right temperature, especially if they’re liquids. The holds of planes are usually very cold, so if you’re taking medication in your hold luggage, check with your doctor or pharmacist whether it will be affected. If so, you may need to store it in an insulated container.
Liquid medicines that will be needed during the flight aren’t subject to the usual rule that only 100ml or less of liquid can be carried on board, but you should inform the airline in advance and bring your prescription or a letter from your doctor confirming what the medicine is and that you will need it with you. If you’re travelling to a warm country and your medicine needs to be kept cool, make sure that you’ll have access to a fridge or other cool space.
Customs and other officials may check your medication to make sure that it’s legal for you to take it out of the country. You should therefore keep your medicines and any other medical products like syringes in their original packaging so that officials can easily see what they are. Unless they contain controlled drugs (see below), it’s also useful to keep a set in your cabin bag and a set in your hold luggage, in case they go missing.
It’s also helpful to get a letter from your GP listing the medicines that you’re taking, the dose, how many times a day you take them and the reason why they’re prescribed to you. The letter should list the generic name of the medicine (e.g. paracetamol) rather than the brand name (e.g. Panadol). This not only helps customs officials to check your medicines but will also be useful if you need medical care while you’re away.
Some medicines are classified as controlled drugs, which means that there are legal restrictions on how they are prescribed and dispensed. They are usually strong painkillers or sedatives, which can be addictive, cause harm or be supplied illegally. Your doctor or pharmacist can tell you whether any of your medicines contain a controlled drug. If so, you will need a letter from the person who prescribed the drug setting out your name, which countries you’re visiting, the dates of your visits and a list of the medicines, the quantity you have, the dose and the strength.
If you’re going on a long trip and carrying enough controlled drugs to last for three months or more, you will need to apply for a special licence. You can find more information about travelling with controlled drugs at gov.uk/travelling-controlle....
It’s also important to check whether any of your medicines contain drugs that aren’t controlled in the UK but are illegal to take into the country you’re travelling to. You can find this out by contacting the country’s embassy.
If you have any tips on travel that other members might find helpful, please share them in the comments below.
Here are some useful websites if you would like to read more about this:
If you have any questions about travel, please do get in touch with us or contact Macmillan on 0808 808 00 00.
Julia (Support Services Officer)