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Medications: Tips for Traveling Internationally

National Clearinghouse on Disability and Exchange
Some people with ADHD need to plan for taking their medications when traveling overseas. This article tells you how to do this.

The following list includes suggested questions that individuals who use daily medications can consider when planning to live or travel overseas. It is important to do research on this topic early. In case you have to resolve insurance issues, research the availability of specialists abroad or other issues that might come up. NCDE also has general information sheets for those who use Ritalin or insulin. Contact NCDE for more information.

  1. Is the medication I use available and allowed in the country where I am going (make sure you know the generic name, not just the brand name)? Is it available in the same dosage as I take at home? If it is not, what are the implications?
  2. What actions do I need to take in order to gain approval of its use? If possession of the medication is not allowed in the host country, is there an appropriate substitute medication that is permitted?
  3. What documentation do I need to bring my medication through customs? All medications should be transported in their original, labeled container along with documentation of the prescription.
  4. What immunizations or vaccinations, if any, will I need to obtain a visa into the host country? Can I receive those if I am taking my current medication or with my medical condition? Visit the CDC website or contact the consulate/embassy of the destination country to find out what vaccinations may be required or useful.
  5. What is the contact information for local doctors near the site where I will be living or the place where I will be staying? Do they speak my native language? Do they have certain specialties?
  6. If I need assistance taking my medication, who on-site can assist me?
  7. What is the contact information for some nearby pharmacies? Does the medication cost more in that country? Will they accept my doctor’s note?

    TIP: Some countries require that the prescribing doctor be licensed in that country before a prescription can be filled.

  8. Where could I get my doctor’s letter (that will be written in generic medical terms) translated into another language if needed for the country I am traveling to?
  9. What are some of the common medications that are given to people if they become sick with common traveler’s sicknesses, so I can ask my home doctor if those can safely be taken simultaneously with my current medications?
  10. Is there refrigeration available on the airplane, at my living accommodations and at the host site? Will I have any difficulty securing short-term means of keeping my medication cool, for example while on a bus excursion? Will ice be readily available, for instance?
  11. What is the time difference between my departure and arrival destinations so I can ask my doctor when I should take my medications in the case of jet lag, time changes, and possible flight delays?
  12. Does my medical insurance cover costs for prescriptions I buy overseas and for overseas doctor visits? If my overseas employer or educational program provides health insurance, is there a waiver for preexisting conditions or a clause for treatment for unforeseen changes in conditions?
  13. How much medication will I need to bring and can I get a prescription for that quantity?

    TIP: Find out if your insurance places limits on the amount of medication dispensed at one time. You may need documentation from your doctor, employer, and/or academic advisor that details the dates of the program and the need to have sufficient medication to cover the entire period, and possibly extra in case of delays or other unexpected occurrences.

  14. What travel/emergency insurance should I have and what will that insurance cover? What will it exclude?
  15. What is my back-up plan if I run out, lose or have stolen the medication I brought with me? It may be illegal to send some prescription medications through the mail to certain countries. Check with the postal service and customs office before doing so.
  16. What if my medications are controlled substances? How do I know if my medication are controlled substance in the country I am traveling to?

Medical Contacts

Although efforts have been made to ensure accuracy, MIUSA/NCDE, LD OnLine, and WETA cannot be held liable for inaccuracy, misinterpretation or complaints arising from these listings. Mention of an organization, company, service or resource should not be construed as an endorsement by MIUSA/NCDE. Please advise NCDE of any inaccuracies you may find.

National Clearinghouse on Disability and Exchange, (2008). Medications: Tips for Traveling Internationally. Initially published Mobility International USA Web site: . Revised slightly by LD OnLine Staff for LD OnLine website. The NCDE is sponsored by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the U.S. Department of State and administered by Mobility International USA.
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