The sun is out and the weather is warm, which means schools are out and the time has come for the summer ritual of vacation! In our planning, we can always use a reminder on the rules for traveling with our medications.
Make sure that storage conditions are met for your medication if travel is going to last for more than a few hours as the airlines will not provide ice to keep medications cool. Amtrak will provide ice, but their supplies are limited and may not be available if the train becomes delayed for extended periods. There are medication coolers available to keep medications cool for several hours.
This is the point where I will quote my Criminal Justice Procedure professor, “Ignorance of the law is not a legal defense.” That rule applies globally, so it is advisable to check with the Customs departments in each of your international destinations. Many countries will require you to have the medication in its original container with a copy of the physician’s order. For inhalers, have your pharmacy label the inhaler if you plan to travel with it.
Controlled substances get a little stickier, most countries are very strict on the amount of controlled substances that are brought in, and also may prohibit many of the medications that are available in the United States. This is another instance where it is advisable to contact the Customs Department of your intended destinations. We recommend that you only take a supply sufficient for your travels and leave the rest of your medication at home in a locked safe. Make sure the container you travel with has your prescription on it and take a copy of the physician’s order with you in case you are required to product documentation.
In all cases, make sure you declare your medications with the customs agent or on your customs declaration card. Failure to do so can cause your medications to be seized at the border, deny you entry to your destination country, and possibly land you in jail or assessed a heavy fine (Australia’s fine for lying on your declaration card starts at $500).
Bringing Back Medication Purchased Abroad
People get sick on vacation and often need to seek treatment abroad for a medical condition. Also many people experience medical tourism, meaning they travel abroad for procedures that are less expensive than they are here in the us.
In general this is not permitted by the United States Customs and Border Protection if you are a US Citizen. This is especially true for controlled substances. There are 2 exceptions to this rule and they are if received treatment abroad for a serious condition that has no available treatment in the United States or if you were treated abroad and the medication being imported is required for continued treatment. People travelling to the United States from another country and are using personal medications are exempt from these restrictions provided all medications will be used during travels or will take the medication back to their country with them.
Getting medication before travelling
In general your insurance company will allow the pharmacy a one-time early fill override for patients that are travelling. There are restrictions on the number of times that can be done (often once every 180 days). A special note, Medicare patients do not have this option available to them although with a little advance planning it is possible to get the medication a few days early each month to build a vacation supply.
If you need to request a special fill of your medication, please speak to us directly to avoid delays to your order and remember to allow 1-2 business days if your medication is a compound.
Thank you for choosing Keystone Pharmacy,
Adam King, BS, LPhT, PRS
Billing, Technology, and Regulation Specialist