Medicines and travel

Medicines and travel

Australians love to travel with international destinations growing in popularity to the extent that the Bureau of Statistics reports that more than 30 per cent of Australians travel overseas every year, both for business and pleasure.

The downside of such travel is that the likelihood of experiencing a travel-related illness while overseas is almost 50 per cent.

While some of this is due to viruses and other localised factors, people taking medicines can help to minimise their risks by ensuring they have adequate supplies, or if they are away for a long time, know how to source their medicines.

The Australian Government’s Smart Traveller website advises travellers to try to take their medicines with them but also warns it is illegal to take Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) medicines out of Australia unless the medicine is for personal use, or the personal use of someone travelling with them.

It also advises travellers planning to take prescription medicines to check with the embassies of the countries they are visiting to ensure the medicine is legal in the countries they are travelling to.  Just because a medicine is legal in Australia does not mean it is legal everywhere else.

With injectable medicines it may be preferable to carry your own needles and syringes if permissible – check with the embassies ­ in the countries you’re visiting. If you buy needles and syringes overseas, ensure they are sealed and sterile.

It is also a good idea to have a letter from your doctor detailing what the medicine is prescribed for, how much you’ll be taking and stating the medicine is for your personal use or the personal use of someone with you (for example, a child). This is especially important for injectable medicines and medicines that fall into the category of controlled substances, such as certain pain medicines, sleeping pills, ADHD medicines, and medicines for treatment of anxiety and depression.

Medicine should be kept in its original packaging so it can be easily identified. Leaving it in its original packaging also means it is clearly labelled with your name and dosage instructions.

Drug names and dosages can vary from country to country, so ask your community pharmacist to provide you with the generic names for all prescription and over-the-counter medicines you take regularly and will need to take while you are away. When buying medicines overseas be careful to avoid imitation or counterfeit medicines, and always check the strength of the medicine – packaging and labelling may be similar to those available in Australia, but the strength and active ingredients can vary from country to country.

It is a good idea also to have about a week’s supply of any medicines you take in your hand luggage.  This means if your check-in luggage is mislaid you have enough supplies to last until the bags are found or you have a prescription filled.

And finally a travel first aid kit is useful and you can learn more about what you need to make up such a kit here.