Traveling Abroad with IBD Medication
Last Updated: 06/08/2021
It is strongly advised to obtain a letter from your prescribing doctor or IBD team, which should confirm your name, travel itinerary, names of prescribed and/ or controlled drugs, dosages and total amounts of each to be carried on your trip.
If possible, try to take enough medication for your whole trip, as well as extra in case of delays. NZ doctors are able to prescribe three months’ worth of supply but talk to your pharmacist to make sure that the entire amount at once is available. If your medication has to be kept refrigerated, you could store it in a small cool bag, obtainable online from Amazon, or in a Frio cooling wallet. For longer trips you must ensure the medical cool wallet keeps medication at a temperature of between 2-8°C.
Other essential medical supplies such as diarrhoea and redhydration kits can be found at specialist travel clinics.
When planning extended trips abroad, you may need to get new supplies of your medication whist travelling. Depending on where you travel this may be obtainable either from local doctors or as a private prescription. Plan for this by taking a copy of your prescription with you.
It is always a good idea to take an emergency kit which includes over-the-counter medicines, such as anti-diarrhoeals (e.g. Imodium, Lomotil), anti-spasmodics (e.g. Buscopan, Colofac), rehydration sachets (e.g. Dioralyte, Electrolate, Rehidrat) and pain killers (e.g. paracetamol). Details of this can be found on the travel and IBD page.
Taking medicines abroad
When travelling abroad you should follow the following advice:
- Keep your medication in their original packaging to show at customs.
- Ensure you have a letter from your GP or IBD specialist/nurse outlining your medication, this will be essential if you are carrying medication in liquid form over 100mls (e.g. enemas, enteral and parenteral feeds).
- Store medication in your hand luggage when flying in case your luggage is lost.
- Check with your airline before you fly whether you can carry your medications in your hand luggage, especially if you need to take syringes.
- If you are travelling across different time zones you should discuss this with your doctor or pharmacist who will be able to advise you what to do, when to take medications.
- It may be a good idea to research the names of your medications in the country you are visiting as these can be different. Maybe write down the generic names of the medications.
Travelling with injectable medications: Adalimumab (Humira®)
- If you are travelling with medication that needs to be kept cold, you can obtain a variety of useful cooling travel wallets.
- Humira can be kept out of the fridge at room temperature (25°c) for up to 14 days. Once it is taken out of the fridge it must be used within 14 days or discarded.
Travelling with Infliximab (Remicade®)
- Travel when you are receiving intravenous infliximab is possible but will require more planning.
- Use the IBD Network page to find an IBD centre in your destination. Not only do you need to organise the medication but also a medical centre to administer the medication.
- Many countries may require special medical insurance in order for you to be seen by a healthcare professional and receive biologic medication in that country.
- For long periods of travel the IBD centre at your travel destination may need to obtain special funding in order to administer the biologic medication.
- Infliximab can be kept at room temperature and your IBD centre may allow you to carry the vials of medication with you to be infused at another centre overseas. This will need prior arrangement with the IBD centre at your travel destination.
Legal considerations of travelling with medication
Some prescription and over-the-counter medications patients use for things like pain relief, sleep aids, allergies and even cold and flu remedies are illegal in some countries. The United Arab Emirates and Japan, for example, are among the most restrictive nations, but many ban or restrict importing narcotics, sedatives, amphetamines and other common over-the-counter medications. Carrying medication for personal use often does not pose significant problems but travel for longer than 3 months with medications to last the duration of this time could be against the law in some countries.
Top Tips to avoid problems when travelling:
- Be aware of the active ingredients in all medications. Check with the embassy of the country you are travelling to see if the medications you will carry are restricted or prohibited.
- Medications must be carried in their original packaging with an accompanying prescription and physician letter.
- In countries where a medication is allowed, but its amount is capped, reducing the dosage or switching to another available medication may be advised.
- Other countries may have their own import regulations for controlled drugs and prescription medicines. You will need to check with the embassy of the country you are travelling to or through to clarify whether you need a license.
For more information about travelling with medication or obtaining medication and healthcare advice overseas, please visit our Healthcare abroad page.
Sources of Information
- Crohn's and Colitis UK website. Travel and IBD factsheet http://s3-eu-west-1.amazonaws.com/files.crohnsandcolitis.org.uk/Publications/travel-and-IBD.pdf
- Department of Health. Guidance on controlled drugs: licences, fees and returns https://www.gov.uk/controlled-drugs-licences-fees-and-returns
- FRIO UK. Cooling wallet www.friouk.com
- Electronic Medicines Compendium. Humira SPC . http://www.medicines.org.uk/emc/medicine/21201. Accessed 22/2/16.