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Students should consult with their health care providers and/or UHS to determine what medications they will need while abroad and whether those medications are available and legal at their destination.
Do not assume that because you have been prescribed a medication in the United States it is legal and available in another country. Some medications commonly prescribed or sold over the counter in the US are illegal in other countries. Ignorance is not a valid excuse for not abiding by local medication laws. In particular, some medications prescribed for ADD/ADHD may require special permission before being allowed into other countries.
Tips on Traveling with Medication
- Obtain a letter from your physician indicating the medications, your diagnosis, and why it’s being prescribed. This should include specific active ingredients, dosage and length of time you will take it, the reason it was prescribed, and the generic equivalent. Take this letter in your carry-on.
- Some drugs are not widely available in other countries, and even if they are available, strengths and dosages may differ. Make sure to discuss this with your healthcare provider.
- Bring enough medicine for the full duration of travel or the maximum amount that you are allowed to bring into the country (often 3 months, but this can vary).
- Carry all medications (including over-the-counter drugs) in their original containers with your name on the label. Put them in your carry-on bag along with the letter from your physician.
- Do NOT arrange to have medication sent to you by mail. This is illegal in many countries and can lead to serious legal consequences
- It is recommended that you bring your preferred brand of medicine for common ailments such as colds or headaches. These may not be available abroad.
Filling Medication Abroad
Students who need to fill prescriptions in their host country may need to schedule an appointment with a physician in the host country to obtain a prescription. To make this process smooth and to ensure that the correct prescription is prescribed, students should bring their prescription letter that was written by their US physician. GeoBlue's Student Portal contains useful resources, including lists of approved local hospitals, doctors, dentists, pharmacies, and translation services.
Transport of Medication
Students must pack their medications according to Transportation Security Administration (TSA) regulations, including declaring the medication for screening at checkpoints and having the name on the medication label match the name as it appears on the boarding pass. Visit the TSA website for more information.
It is also recommended that students carry a medication/emergency card with their name, drug allergies, physician’s name and contact information, exact names of the medications that they are currently taking, and an emergency contact.
Is My Medication Legal?
Below are a few resources students can utilize to learn if their medication is legal in their host country. Students who are taking controlled substances and/or psychotropic medications are particularly recommended to do this research.
- The US embassy/consulate of the host country
- Traveler advice provided by host country
- International Narcotics Control Board website
- CGIS Health & Safety Advisor