Taking medicines abroad
There are many things that it is helpful for you to consider if you're travelling and taking medicines abroad.
If you’re taking regular medicines, make sure you have enough to last for your whole trip, even if your return is delayed by a couple of days.If you’re going for a long time, check whether you can get the medicines you need in the country you’re going to, as your doctor can normally prescribe only a limited amount.
Medicines tend to have at least two names: the name of the drug (its ‘generic’ name) and the name of the brand. For example, the generic drug anastrozole is sold under the brand Arimidex®. Brand names can vary between countries, so it can help to keep a record of generic names.
Taking your medicines at the right time
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If you’re travelling across international time zones, this is likely to affect the time you take your regular medicines. If there are only a couple of hours’ difference in time, you may want to continue taking the medicines at the same times you have been (UK time).
If there’s several hours’ difference from UK time, you may end up taking your medicines at inconvenient times of the day or night. It may be easier to gradually adjust the times that you take your regular medicines to fit in with the local time. Your doctor or pharmacist can help you plan how to adjust the times you take your medicines.
Restrictions on some drugs
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Some countries limit the amount of particular drugs that can be taken into the country. It’s important to check with the country’s high commission or embassy about any restrictions they may have on taking certain medicines in or out.
If you need to take some types of medicine (such as painkillers like morphine) in or out of the UK, you’ll need a letter from your doctor. This will also be helpful if you have to take syringes, needles or portable medicine pumps with you.
The letter should include:
your name and address
your date of birth
your dates of travel in and out of the country
the country you’re visiting
the medicines you’re taking, the doses and total amounts you’re taking with you.
If you’re travelling for more than three months, you may need a medicines licence from the Home Office in order to be able to take certain drugs out of the country. If you’re not sure whether you need this for your medicines, check with your doctor.
Getting a personal medicines licence
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To get a personal medicines licence, your doctor has to complete a form and send it to the Home Office Drugs Licensing and Compliance Unit. You can download a form or request that one be sent to you by phoning 020 7035 6330.
The Home Office will usually need at least two weeks to process applications for a licence. You can get information about the maximum amounts of controlled drugs that can be taken out of the UK from the Home Office Drugs Licensing and Compliance Unit.
Travelling with medicines
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You should carry all medicines, covering letters and licences for controlled drugs in your hand luggage, as customs officers will usually need to see them. Make sure you keep medicines in their original packaging. With medicines that are not controlled drugs, it may help to carry one set in your hand luggage and another in your suitcase, so that if one set goes missing you still have the other.
It can also help to keep a list of the medicines you’re taking, along with information about the doses. This will help you get replacements if you lose them. Always use the generic name of the medicine as brand names can vary from country to country.
Liquid medicines in hand luggage
Most non-medicinal liquids in your hand luggage are restricted to a maximum of 100ml. However, liquid medicines and liquid diets that are needed during the flight can be taken on a plane without restriction. You can bring more than 100ml of a liquid medicine, but you’ll need prior agreement from the airline and the departure airport. You’ll also need to bring a supporting document from your doctor or another relevant medical professional - this could be a letter or a signed prescription.
There’s more information about carrying liquids in your hand luggage on the Direct.gov website.
Keeping medicines cool
If you’re travelling with medicines that need to be kept cool, you can get small cool bags from your chemist for the journey. It will help to check with your hotel whether or not there will be a fridge in your room. If not, ask them if there’s somewhere secure where your medicines can be stored and kept cool.