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How to travel with medication

Packing your suitcase for out-of-state travel prompts a range of emotions that span from excitement to last-minute panic … do you have everything you need? 

In all the excitement, sometimes the details of packing your prescription medications gets overlooked. Prescription laws, regarding what is allowed, may differ from state to state. 

In addition, airlines may have their own policies regarding flying with medications.

Although your travel plans may be on hold for a while, we want to make sure you’re all set for your next adventure. Here are some tips to help you prepare your medications.

  1. Pack medications first
    Your medications are your most important luggage. While packing medications stored at room temperature is as simple as finding room in your carry-on bag or purse, you will need a plan for refrigerated medication. The best way to travel with refrigerated medication is to have a small cooler with ice packs handy on the day of your travel into which you can place the prescriptions.While traveling, do not store medications in the car, especially during winter and summer months. The potency of medications can be affected by extreme hot or cold temperatures.Organize and confirm that you have enough medication for the entire trip and at least a week extra for unexpected delays.
  1. Refill medications locally before traveling
    If you find that you do not have enough medication for the entire trip (plus a reserve), ask your pharmacy for a refill.If the pharmacy states that the prescription is too early to refill, ask your pharmacist to call for a vacation override. This will ensure you have enough medication before you leave and should limit any refilling needed at your destination.
  1. Find a destination pharmacy to fill your prescriptions
    Sometimes filling a prescription away from home is unavoidable. In preparation, research pharmacy locations and phone numbers near your destination. Call and speak to the pharmacist practicing in the state that you’re visiting to ask questions about how to fill an out-of-state prescription.For example, are out-of-state prescriptions allowed? Do they allow paper prescriptions from out-of-state prescribers to be filled? Are prescriptions for controlled substances fillable from out-of-state prescribers? Unexpected situations arise. Being informed of the basic prescription laws of the state you are visiting can avoid stress and added expense.
  1. Review Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) medication travel policies before air travelMedications are allowed on flights. Make sure prescriptions are labeled and stored inside your carry-on bag.Larger amounts of medically necessary liquids, gels, aerosols, accessories associated with medication including ice packs, IV bags, pumps, syringes and insulin pumps, glucose monitors or other medical devices attached to your body are allowed. TSA officers, however, must be informed at checkpoints for inspection.

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Beth Coopman, Pharm.D.
Beth Coopman is a Clinical Pharmacist at Network Health since 2017. She graduated from University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Pharmacy with her Doctor of Pharmacy degree. She continues to be a pharmacy instructor for UW-Madison School of Pharmacy as well as Medical College of Wisconsin Pharmacy School and Purdue College of Pharmacy. Prior to coming to Network Health, she worked as a pharmacy manager at Walgreens for 12 years and brings to her current role many years of advocating for patients and working with providers to deliver safe, effective, and cost-conscious recommendations. Her goal at Network Health is to work with our members to address problems they may have with medication affordability, complexity, and understanding how medications can improve or maintain their quality of life. Additionally, Beth has active roles in Network Health’s Behavior Health Committee, Quality Management Committee and Interdisciplinary Care Team. Beth and her husband are kept quite active with their three children, but in her spare time she enjoys playing sports, volunteering at St. Joseph’s food pantry and reading.

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