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Travelling with Medications has been Labelled ‘Daunting’

Hundreds and thousands of travellers fly, sail and drive internationally whilst carrying medical equipment, prescriptions and medications with them. Research before they leave can be hard and difficult to carry out, with destination-specific information hard to find online, and embassies being busy or not much help, a new study has shown.

The research team at the University of Canberra in Australia launched an investigation into how easy travellers with pre-existing medical conditions find travelling with medications and other health issues.

“Most embassies tend to focus on purely trade and tourism. Health issues are not often a priority” said lead researcher Moses Mutie.

The Australian team looked into the situation of a traveller from their own country going to one of the twenty-five other countries popular with Australian tourists – ranging from Africa, the Americas, Europe, Southeast Asia and the Western Pacific.

They contacted a generic email to each embassy asking questions about the quantities and different types of medication allowed in the country for personal use, required documentation, customs information and any included details about requirements for travelling with medical equipment.

Within a two week period, only eleven embassies had responded – three of which merely forward the customer on to the Pharmacy Board of Australia and did not respond further. Eight countries responded personally and their recommendations varied wildly, tending to be much more strict and parallel in their recommendations of the International Narcotics Control Board, an independent body which implements Drug Control Conventions from the United Nations.

None of the embassies, nor the additionally consulted consular websites, addressed travelling with medical equipment.

“Travel health and travelling with medications or equipment is a huge mess and supremely unsatisfactory,” said Dr. Irmgard Bauer of the Division of Tropical Health and Medicine in Australia.
She added, “Travellers on long trips could also be referred to a colleague in the country of destination to continue treatment and prescribe the medication. In some cases, it may mean that travel cannot happen.”

Doctor Natasha Hochberg is an infectious disease physician and says, “Travellers bringing medication overseas should bring the medication in their hand luggage to prevent possible loss in checked-in baggage. Keep all medication in the original bottle that the medication came in and bring enough to last for your entire trip as well as some extra in case of changes to your itinerary, loss or damage. Make sure you have adequate documentation including the original prescription and a signed letter from your doctor, too.”

Patients should ask their GP about travels plans and enquire into what is required. Some websites that contain travel tips and advice such as Holidaysafe, can also give you an idea of what to do when travelling with medications or medical equipment.

Please note, Holidaysafe's online prices automatically include a 15% discount against our Customer Service Centre prices.
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