By Dr.Adam Huber (MBBS)
Travelling overseas with your prescription medication, or even a poorly labelled bottle of vitamins, can be a severe hassle. In some places, travelling with prescription medication might mean a run in with eager customs officials. In countries such as Thailand, Bali and Singapore drugs are taken seriously and it’s better to take some fairly simple preparations to avoid your prescription medication being mistaken for something more sinister.
If you are taking medication which might look as though it will end up in the street (such as seriously strong pain killers) you can contact the embassy of the country you plan to visit to check what’s legal to bring in and what’s not. Just because it’s legal to buy in Australia does not mean that it will always be legal in the country you plan to visit (though the reverse is often true).
The second step is just to see your doctor and get your prescription filled. An Australian script is not valid overseas. You should try and take as much as is practical to avoid seeing a doctor on the way (if indeed your medicine is available anyway). When you are with your doctor ask them to kindly write a quick note describing the nature of the medication, its use, and why you are taking it. Keep a copy with your passport and another with the medication itself.
If you won’t have enough medication for the entire trip this letter will also help in getting the medication overseas.
If you need syringes, try to take a supply from home, and get the doc to mention the need for these in the note. Let the airline know in advance that you plan to carry these on the plane (don’t ever rely on travel agents for these arrangements; always double check yourself with the airline).
If you have a few different medications (including malaria pills), make sure your doc lists them all in the note.
When travelling, take the medication in your hand luggage; your check in bags always have the chance of going missing.
If your drugs need refrigeration the airlines might put them in the fridge for you. Again try to check in advance what their rules are if this applies to you.
When you are overseas, many drugs that are legal to purchase in other countries might get you into strife when you arrive back into Australia. Make sure you declare any drugs on the way through customs when you get home.