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Travel Health & Safety Blog

Refilling your prescription abroad: everything you need to know

WHY A DOCTOR MAY NOT WANT TO PRESCRIBE MEDICATION TO YOU


You need to get a restock of your prescription medication outside our home country/city: perhaps you have been away from home for longer than you thought, or maybe you’ve lost your prescribed medication.


Prescription-only pharmaceuticals are regulated for safety reasons primarily, but also legal reasons: Morphine and Fentanyl for example are highly effective drugs for people with severe recalcitrant pain, but equally highly sought after by criminals for their high street value.


There are ultimately two reasons why a doctor that you are unknown to, might be reluctant to prescribe you medication:

  • Safety: The doctor doesn’t don’t know you, your medical condition and your general state of health.
  • Liability: Prescribing doctors can be held responsible for incorrect prescriptions, unwanted side-effects, and interactions because you're taking other drugs or have other comorbidities (illnesses) that the doctor doesn't know about.

To ensure that you follow a smooth, compliant restocking process, follow our steps below.


INITIAL STEPS TO TAKE PRIOR TO TRAVEL


The best ways to avoid difficulties in getting your prescription refilled are:

  • Explain to your doctor in your home country that you are a frequent traveller: often at short notice and your schedule changes on a regular basis. It is possible to prescribe more than the usual regulator and insurer-approved quantity of drugs for good reasons.
  • Always carry your medications in your hand-luggage: this mitigates any risks, like your hold luggage going missing.
  • Always carry a copy of your medical record: including a prescription of the pharmacology that supports your good health, from the doctor, with the following details visible to any other doctor who may be called upon to prescribe for you:
    • The original prescription on the doctor's letterhead paper
    • The prescription hand-signed either with a physical signature or DocuSign equivalent, and not simply labelled "signed by computer".
    • The brand name of the medicine must be specified.
    • Very important: the generic name of the medicine must be specified (brand names are not universal)
    • There should be a statement that the patient (Name, FAMILY NAME, date of birth, date of this prescription), is carrying XX boxes/bottles to last YY weeks while they will be travelling/working. (Additional note: travellers have rarely reported difficulties in carrying three months’ supply or less but are often questioned when more is carried.
    • The prescription must state the diagnosis for which the medicine is required, and (we recommend the addition of “it is much appreciated by (the doctor) that the patient is able to travel with this medicine as it is required to maintain the patient's health.”)

In general these additional pieces of documentation are not required in order to obtain a prescription when travelling in areas like the United States or Europe, but is expected to be produced in other jurisdictions such as the Middle East and China, which will usually require special prearrangement with your doctor at home.

Tip: As mentioned above MedAire would always encourage you to carry your medical record with you wherever you go. Although a minority of cases, some patients can get into clinical and financial straights, if for example they have a pre-existing condition, the medical team don't know about, that interferes with the treatment. It may also make claiming insurance more difficult. 


Important
: it is illegal to import even personal quantities of prescription drugs by commercial courier.

Also Important! Always check with the country and/or MedAire before carrying any prescription drugs. Prohibitions and restrictions can vary from country-to-country and not understanding these could land you in prison, as a worst case scenario - especially if you're carrying a surplus to cover your time away. 


HOW MEDAIRE WILL HELP ARRANGE YOUR PRESCRIPTION REFILL ABROAD


It is usually easier to arrange for a prescription to be dispensed in the same country the prescription was first written, but there is no requirement that a doctor in the same or another state or region will prescribe what your own doctor did previously, and there is certainly no guarantee that a pharmacy/drugstore will dispense that prescribed drug.


At MedAire we may be able to arrange a video Teleconsultation for you for some of the more ‘medically straightforward drugs’, i.e. those with relatively mild potential side-effects, low street value, not of any commercial value and which a patient has been taking for months if not years. If approved by the doctor, we may even be able to arrange for delivery of the prescription in certain locations.


A Teleconsultation is not likely to be feasible for medication groups including: antidepressants, anticonvulsants, analgesics, muscle relaxants, erectile dysfunction medications, insomnia medications, and methamphetamine and derivatives as used in ADHD.


Regardless, as the experts in global travel health, we will ensure a smooth prescription resupply process. This is how the process will usually work, assuming that you are in good health with no acute illness:

  1. If it's feasible and you agree, our medical team will reach out to your doctor at home, confirm the drug and dosage he/she prescribed, ask for a copy of the prescription, and call the pharmacy at your location to see if they will agree to dispense this (if you're in the same country).
  2. If you're in another country and you or we can get a copy of that original prescription, we will arrange on your behalf, either a video Teleconsultation or an appointment with a practitioner in your location. Depending on the drug you need, we will check that drug is available and the practitioner is potentially willing to prescribe it, and we will make the necessary arrangements (including payment on your behalf, if you request).
  3. MedAire will forward a referral letter with your demographic, medical details and history, we will state the drug in its branded and generic IDs, and we will advise the amount you are looking for, prior to you seeing the doctor.
  4. If the doctor wishes or needs (from both a clinical and regulatory perspective) to see you in person before prescribing the drug, we will facilitate this at your convenience and their availability. It is important to also understand that the consultation is not a guarantee that you will receive the prescription.

Always be mindful of the fact that drugs manufactured and dispensed in another country (even if they are sold under the same brand name) will not necessarily have the same "bioavailability" i.e. the same effectiveness, as drugs you have taken at home. This is especially important in the case of drugs like thyroxine, where the therapeutically active agent's bioavailability is critical for best results.


If you have any questions, please reach out to medlink@medaire.com .

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