Yesterday, The New York Times ran an article, Before Trip, Make Plans for a Dearth of Medicine, recounting the writer’s frustration with trying to get a prescription refilled in Puerto Rico. This article provides important reminders: things can go wrong, your trip can last longer than you expect, and things that can be handled with a simple phone call in the U.S. can become a major headache in another country.  

Many travelers are so used to taking their prescriptions that they only fret about forgetting to pack them when going on a trip. They don’t consider that they might lose or run out of their medicine (and if so, that the pharmacies may not accept called or faxed in orders from a U.S. doctor) or that their prescription could be for a drug that is illegal or unavailable in the country they are visiting. 

The U.S. Department of State offers advice for travelers going abroad with preexisting medical problems.  Travelers with prescriptions (including eyeglasses/contacts, allergy medicines, and birth control pills) should follow these guidelines to prepare before their trip:

  • Carry a letter from their doctor describing the medical condition and any prescription medication, including the generic names of prescribed drugs
  • Medications carried abroad should be left in their original containers and clearly labeled
  • Check with the foreign embassy of the country to make sure any required medications are not considered illegal in that country

Frank Gillingham, MD, a frequent contributor to HTB, provides some additional advice for those traveling with prescriptions in his Health and Safety Abroad series.

Do you need assistance finding out what your prescription is called or how it is prepared in another country?  HTH Worldwide  built, maintains and annually updates an international database of over 6,200 brand names for nearly 400 compounds in 28 of the most frequently visited countries around the world. This information, along with information on finding pharmacies and profiled doctors, is available to anyone covered by an HTH Worldwide health plan or through an mPassport subscription or downloadable iPhone apps. 

Photo by Smabs Sputzer.

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