While traveling on vacation or for business, you suddenly realize your medications are missing … what do you do? The seriousness of the missing medication depends on your health condition. For some travelers, missing medication is a mild issue but for others it can be life threatening.
The problem is further exacerbated by the varying laws, rules, and regulations governing medications – prescription and otherwise – in all countries.
Unfortunately, if you’re the traveler standing in a foreign hotel room without your prescription medications, there are not a lot of good options.
Before we get started with what to do when your medications go missing, let’s look at how to avoid the problem.
Carefully prepare to travel with your medications
Your first and best plan of action is to prepare carefully for your trip and do everything you can to avoid losing your medications. Start with our 6-step Checklist for Traveling with Medications for the best advice to prepare for your trip.
If you have a pre-existing medical condition, it’s wise to carry a letter from your doctor explaining the condition and the medicines used to treat it, for example.
Recognize that meds are different abroad
If you are traveling internationally, it may be more difficult to get your medication replaced. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warns travelers that filling their prescriptions abroad may have adverse health consequences.
U.S. consumers who fill their prescriptions abroad have to realize that the name of a drug bought in another country may be identical or similar to the name on their prescriptions back home, but the drug they are given may have a different active ingredient or not be in the same dosage and could cause serious and sometime irreparable harm.
See also: Watch out for Counterfeit Drugs on your Trip for more details.
Even with a prescription and cash in hand you could have trouble
Even if you’re prepared with a copy of your prescription and the money to pay for the drugs, many countries do not permit pharmacies to fill prescriptions that originate outside their country.
One solution is to see a local doctor to explain your medical condition to get a new prescription that can be filled locally. If you have a letter from your doctor back home explaining your condition and the medication used to treat it, that will help the local doctor.
Now, let’s look at this very serious travel problem and what you can do to replace your prescription medications.
1. Call someone for help
Travelers who discover their prescription medications are lost or stolen should start by contacting the assistance service company provided in their travel insurance policy. The travel insurance assistance services is the simplest way to get your prescriptions replaced as the service representatives will be able to make the calls to your doctors and pharmacies back home and then advise you how to proceed.
Travelers who are in a foreign country without the benefit of a travel assistance services provider may contact the local embassy in the country they are visiting for help.
Having a simple travel medical portfolio can ensure that you have the information you need – such as your doctor’s contact information, your current prescriptions, your health insurance company contact info – to help yourself too.
2. If your medications were stolen, file a report
If your medications were stolen from your checked luggage, for example, check with your airline and file a report. If your medications were stolen outside the realm of air travel, file a police report.
Be sure to get a copy of the report – you’ll need it for your travel insurance claim. If your travel medical insurance plan has coverage for the cost of prescription medications, then replacing them maybe covered. If you packed your medications in your checked or carried bags and a bag was stolen, the cost of replacing your prescriptions may be included with your baggage coverage in a standard travel insurance plan.
A final word …
The list of tips to solve this critical travel emergency is admittedly short but for the many reasons explained here. It’s a very complicated problem and one that’s not likely to get any easier any time soon.
The following traveler’s health information resources may be able to provide you with additional help in a prescription medication emergency abroad:
International Association for Medical Assistance to Travelers (IAMAT) – this organization provides travel health advice and coordinates with an international network of doctors and clinics. Their website includes a directory of fully licensed, English-speaking doctors in 350 cities across 90 countries. This group’s membership is paid on a donation basis, so it’s a good budget option.
MedicAlert Foundation’s TravelPlus – the non-profit membership organization that brings us medical identification accessories also has a travel assistance program that offers assistance in locating a doctor overseas, including language translation. This program requires membership.