The summer holiday season is almost upon us. If you suffer chronic pain and are able to travel abroad, you will of course have to take with you your prescription medication. If you approach this in the right way, you shouldn’t encounter any particular problems.
Some prescription drugs are controlled under the Misuse of Drugs Regulations. These are referred to as “controlled medicines” or “controlled drugs”. Common examples of controlled drugs used by those suffering chronic pain are Tramadol, Morphine, Oxycodone and Oxycontin. Controlled drugs are subject to stricter controls in order to try to prevent them being misused.
Get a letter from your doctor
For all prescription medication, but particularly for controlled drugs, you should obtain a letter from your doctor outlining your need for the medication concerned, the daily dosage and the amount you are intending to take with you. It is important that you carry this letter with you at all times so that it is available for inspection by airport staff and officials in your destination country. The letter should also ideally state your full name, address, date of birth, a brief itinerary and intended dates of travel. Please note that your doctor will almost certainly charge a fee for producing this letter.
Exceptionally, for controlled drugs, you may find that you require a personal licence issued by the Home Office authorising personal use of the drug abroad and, importantly, allowing you to bring it back into the UK. A good example of when a personal licence may be required is if the duration of your visit may exceed 3 months. The Home Office can provide more specific information on the individual requirements for your drug(s). If a licence is required, your doctor will need to provide a supporting letter for your application.
Requirements in your destination country
It is important that you check well in advance of travel for any local rules and requirements in your destination country. If the country’s embassy’s website is unhelpful, you should contact the embassy direct and ask for details. Contact them in writing as you will then be able to take their reply (letter or email) with you to produce in the destination country should you encounter a problem.
- If possible, always transport drugs in your hand luggage (see below for liquids) in their original, labelled packaging.
- Doctors in the UK are usually restricted to prescribing a maximum of 3 months of any particular medication. If the length of your stay means that you will have to source further supplies in your destination country, a more detailed letter from your doctor is advisable. This should provide details of your condition and why each particular medication is required. Also remember that travel plans can be disrupted and the intended length of your stay increased. Ensure that you take sufficient additional supplies with you.
- To avoid confusion, find out the name of your medication in your destination country.
- For drugs in liquid form, if accompanied by a detailed letter from your doctor, you should be allowed to carry in your hand luggage containers exceeding the usual 100 ml limit. HOWEVER, it is very important to check this with your airline in good time before you travel. If there may be a problem, ask your pharmacist to dispense the medication into multiple containers not exceeding 100 ml.
- Consider storage of your medication in your destination country. How might the local climate affect your medication? Discuss this with your pharmacist. Is there a refrigerator available? For security, is there a safe available?
- Ensure that your travel insurance covers the loss of prescription medication.