Pills Here!
November 1, 2011 11:45 AM   Subscribe

In the future, I may be spending an extended period of time in London and Genoa. YAY! Problem? I am currently on a number of medications, and I am wondering what I would do about making sure I have them during my trip.

So, currently I take about 6 prescription medications, several of which I am only able to get refilled every month. My travel plans may include being out of the country for 2+ months at a go, though details are still a bit hazy. I have never really been out of the country longer than two weeks, and thus never had this problem. Unfortunately, these aren't really meds I can do without for this long. The biggest issue are my opiate meds, particularly oxycodone, and my gabapenten (which I take A LOT of).

How do I:

1) Make sure I can get my meds while overseas?
2) Make sure any meds I am on are legal in those countries?
3) Make sure that while traveling, if I have an emergency where I lose my meds, or run out, I can get more?
4) If I can't get refills overseas, how can I get enough of these meds to last the time? Doctors are, in my experience, very wary about giving more than a month's supply of opiates.
5) While traveling with multiple months worth of these prescriptions (if I have to), how can I avoid being targeted by customs or the TSA?
6) What about insurance?
posted by strixus to Travel & Transportation (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
You mention opiates; what else are you taking?
posted by Specklet at 11:49 AM on November 1, 2011

Ok, here is the full list. Gabapenten, Lyrica, Meloxicam, Aviane, Fluoxetine HCL, Oxycodone and or Hydrocodone (depends on the day), and Cyclobenzaprine.
posted by strixus at 11:59 AM on November 1, 2011

Regarding medications that are not legal in other countries, the CDC says:

Note: Some drugs available by prescription in the US are illegal in other countries. Check the US Department of State Consular Information Sheets for the country(s) you intend to visit or the embassy or consulate for that country(s). If your medication is not allowed in the country you will be visiting, ask your health-care provider to write a letter on office stationery stating the medication has been prescribed for you.
posted by insectosaurus at 12:01 PM on November 1, 2011

Follow up: I checked the country pages for you, and it looks like the UK & Italy are fine with all US-legal medications. However, it couldn't hurt to bring a signed letter from your doctor/psychiatrist stating that s/he prescribed all the medications for you.

And of course, you should always travel with all your medications in the bottles they came in (with your name labeled on them).
posted by insectosaurus at 12:10 PM on November 1, 2011

Oxycodone is (from what I can glean from the NHS website and wikipedia) legal with a prescription in the UK. Hydrocodone is not available for medical use and is listed as a Class A drug under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. Various formulations of dihydrocodeine, a weaker opioid, are frequently used as an alternative for the aforementioned indications of hydrocodone use. So you're not 100% shafted if you get robbed or lose your bag in London.

In addition to taking them as suggested (in their original bottles, with a letter from your GP, etc), you might want to take (and store separately) copies of the paperwork for these (or all)-- just in case your bag with both your medication AND your paperwork is stolen.

Don't go to Greece. You probably would not be stopped or searched by customs officers, but if you were they would probably not let you bring in any opiate painkillers and a Greek doctor would probably not prescribe them for you while you are there.
posted by K.P. at 12:30 PM on November 1, 2011

Talk to your doctor about how to manage this. Controlled substance prescribing laws vary a lot by state. In my state it's legal to write a three-month supply of pills if you use one of several codes on the prescription that indicate that the controlled substances are for the treatment of chronic conditions. These are hardly ever used, but I imagine that one of the few circumstances that might induce a physician to use them would be lengthy travel by a reliable patient on longstanding stable medications.

Depending on your insurance, most plans offer something called a "travel supply" that is intended to give you enough medication while traveling. Your doctor may need to specifically indicate this on the prescription--check with your plan. (Ridiculously, my insurance company limits malaria prophylaxis to 1 mo supply--I had to go through an authorization process to get enough Malarone for an eight-week trip, as if there were any domestic need for malaria prophylaxis in the States).

Definitely take a letter from your MD with a list of your prescribed medications. This will come in handy not only for customs/TSA but will go a long way toward establishing your legitimacy if you need to see a doctor overseas. Make sure you have an extra copy of it somewhere.
posted by The Elusive Architeuthis at 12:35 PM on November 1, 2011

Yes, when I was overseas recently for an extended period, my (Australian) GP gave me a prescription for 2 months worth of meds to fill before I left (not opiates, admittedly) and a letter covering it. Although no officials ever asked about them and I never needed the letter.

I was travelling to Singapore which apparently is quite serious about drug importation. So I had hundreds of pills with me, in both checked and carry on luggage, which was all x-rayed, but was never questioned. But I'm still glad I had the doctor's letter.
posted by Diag at 12:50 PM on November 1, 2011

Oh, and I also travelled recently to London and nearby European countries with quite a lot of diazepam (valium). That also was never questioned.
posted by Diag at 12:52 PM on November 1, 2011

Here is what I would do because it is what I have done:

1. Fax a copy of your round-trip plane ticket to your doctor's office and request a X month prescription as you will be out of the country. Offer to book an appointment shortly after your return at the same time.

2. You do not need a letter from your doctor. You should however carry copies of each prescription with you. This will help with any customs issues and will be important if #3 happens. If they will not write for you make it their problem and ask them what they would suggest you do to cover your medication needs for the duration of this trip.

3. If you lose your meds, it's an issue. Your US prescription is NOT VALID anywhere else. However, a local doctor can prescribe for you and will be so much more likely to do so if they have copies of your prescriptions and not just your word. A local prescription is what you will need if this happens.

In the UK you can see any local GP as a visitor. Even if they don't take private patients, they will take you and charge you as a private patient. You just pay in cash on leaving and it will be 40 - 120 quid. In Italy I would rely on the system to work the same way, but would take the number for the consulate just in case because they 100% can refer you to English speaking doctors.

US drugs are luckily ubiquitous. Your US prescriptions will be enough for the EU doctor to write you the locally named same drug - don't even worry about it.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:21 PM on November 1, 2011

I get all of my prescriptions from one pharmacy. Before leaving on an extended trip I ask them to give me a print out of the last 6 months of medications I have received--this usually contains the number prescribed, physician, refills, etc. have them do this on letterhead and have the pharmacist/pharmacy sign it with their License.Number. This very helpful if you need a refill or lose your medications. Also, helpful is searched at customs ( i have never been and travel very frequently out of the US). I am not sure about controlled substances but my pharmacist has been most willing to ship/mail prescriptions if necessary. Good Luck and enjoy
posted by rmhsinc at 2:33 PM on November 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

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