Tips for Traveling with Prescription Drugs

A Little Preparation Can Save You Time, Reduce Hassle

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As air travel becomes more and more restrictive, people can often have a tough time traveling with their medications. Even for domestic short-haul flights, security has tightened to the point where even liquid medications can be seized from your carry-on if they are over 100 ml and you don't have a prescription. So how can those of us who take daily medications be sure we will be able to carry them on-board?

The following are a few important tips that can help.

Before You Leave

  • Pack extra medicine and supplies when traveling in case you are away from home longer than you expect or there are travel delays. It is generally not a good idea to pack all of your HIV drugs in your check-in luggage in the event they are lost or delayed in transit. Either separate them so that you have a 2-3 day supply on you and pack all of them iton your carry-on.
     
  • Carry a copy of your prescription(s) in your carry-o, purse, or wallet when traveling.
     
  • If taking injectable medications (e.g., Fuzeon, insulin, testosterone)m you must have the medications phyically on you in order to carry empty syringes. You cannot carrying syringes without proof of their use. They will most likely be seized and discarded.
     
  • Do not remove syringes or medicines from the original packaging, being sure to retain the printed labels and manufacturer's information. Packaging is a good way to help airport security identify your medicines. Opening packages or taking pills out of their prescription bottles can potentially delay your time in security.
     
  • Certain drugs need to be refrigerated and may require a cooler pack. Norvir (ritonavir) capsules do not require a cooler per se, but should be kept at a cooler temperature—ideally below 77°F (25°C). Cooler packs are best carried with you rather than in your check-in luggage.
     
  • If traveling abroad, become familiar with the laws, restrictions and requirements of the countries you are traveling to. A small handful of countries limit entry if you are HIV-positive, although in many cases they are not actively enforced. Contact the U.S. State Department for information regarding travel restrictions and medication. The U.S. requires all passengers to declare medications and syringes when traveling abroad.

    At the Airport

    • In  most cases, you will probably not be asked for copies of prescriptions if you are carrying your personal medication with you. This generally only become a problem if you are carrying a lot of medication (as can sometimes happen) or if you are carrying syringes, liquid formulation or temperature-controlled drugs in cooler packs.
       
    • When in doubt, be proactive and present copies of your prescriptions and/or your medication vials when approaching airport security. If you have any problems, ask to see a supervisor. Allow for extra time (as long as two hours domestically or three hours internationally) in order to clear security without a rush.
       
    • You can ask and are entitled to a private screening to maintain your medical confidentiality. Always know your rights as a person living with HIV, whether at home or abroad, as well as the legal protections governing your medical privacy.

    Boarding Your Flight

    • In some cases, the airline or on-board staff may request that they take and store syringes during a flight. Make life easier for yourself by packing your drugs, syringes and other medical supplies in one carry-on in order to minimize the risk of lost, as well as the hassle of digging through all your belongings.

      Edited by Dennis Sifris, MD and James Myhre

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