As a reader of this blog, I’ll bet you’re pretty travel savvy. To that point, you already know that some medications that are allowed in the US are illegal in other countries and vice versa. And of course, taking medications across the border into another country comes with a risk varying between confiscation to jail time.
Also, as a SafeTravels reader, you probably know how to pack your own
I’ll also assume you remember
There are many reasons a traveler may need to obtain or replace a medication:
Whatever the reason you need to get medicine while abroad, I’ll address how to navigate the world of international pharmacies. Much like country-specific customs, there are country-specific rules to obtaining the medication you need from a local pharmacy.
Here’s your handbook for navigating international pharmacies.
The US Department of State recently
A recent study by University of California Los Angeles researchers found that pharmacies in northern Mexico are
The truth, however, is that counterfeit medicines are a huge problem worldwide. In some places, up to 30 or 40 percent of medications may be counterfeit!
Tips to spot fake medicine:
Of course, purchasing medication from a reputable pharmacy is the most critical step to avoiding fake medicines.
First, don’t play doctor abroad. If you fall ill while traveling, it’s best to consult with a medical professional―even if what you’re experiencing feels familiar.
Depending on the destination, how far you traveled (jet lag is a trickster), and what is going on in the place you are visiting, something that feels like a sinus infection could be something else.
Treating what you’ve got with medicine that won’t wipe it out will only delay your recovery and could put you at additional risk.
All that said, sometimes you know what you need to feel better and you just need to get your hands on the right medicine to do the trick.
In some countries, the first stop when you’re ill is the pharmacy and not your primary care provider. In fact, in some developing countries, you can get a prescription drug by
In addition, some pharmacists around the world have the latitude to provide short-term or emergency refills for common medications without a prescription.
As you might have suspected, what’s considered a reliable, reputable pharmacy depends on where you’re traveling. Here are some examples of the range of difference:
Travelers should not purchase medications (even those that appear legit) in open markets, from street vendors, or from businesses with names like chemist or druggist.
As I mentioned before, some countries have supermarkets with on-site pharmacies like Tesco in England or Carrefour in Belgium. The staff there can provide some assistance or give you a number to call.
Damian Tysdal is the founder of CoverTrip, and is a licensed agent for travel insurance (MA 1883287). He believes travel insurance should be easier to understand, and started the first travel insurance blog in 2006.