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I am traveling and forgot my medication at home. What can I do?

Written by Gabriel Levitt, MA | Posted June 27, 2018 | Updated September 15, 2022

Forgetting or losing medication while traveling can prove to be scary, if not downright dangerous because you need your medication to stay healthy. However, if you keep your wits about you, it can usually be limited to a minor inconvenience. 

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I forgot my meds while traveling within the U.S.

If you’re traveling and live in the United States, then forgetting your meds shouldn’t be a big deal. Stay calm. For the sake of this article, let’s say you live in Washington State and you’ve traveled to Florida. All you’ll need to do is have your prescription transferred or a local pharmacist may be able to give you a few pills to hold you over during your travel. Just follow these easy steps:

First, find out where there is a pharmacy near you. 

Maybe ask the hotel or the friends with whom you are staying. That advice may have given me away as a guy over age 50. Yes, just type “pharmacy near me” in Google and you’re all set. 

Let’s say the pharmacy is called Main Street USA Pharmacy in Miami Beach.

Second, call that pharmacy and tell them about what happened.

Let Main Street USA Pharmacy know that you’re going to have your prescription transferred there. 

Third, call the pharmacy at home where you last filled your lost prescriptions.

Let’s call it Hometown Pharmacy. Ask them to transfer your prescription to Main Street USA Pharmacy. 

Fourth, call Main Street USA Pharmacy and tell them to call you when your prescription is ready.

Easy.

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Potential Problems in Getting Your Lost Prescription Medication in the United States 

  1. What if Hometown Pharmacy tells you that it will not transfer your prescription to Main Street USA Pharmacy? They may not do so because you don’t have any refills left or there may be state-based rules preventing the transfer. Relax.

First, call your healthcare provider in Seattle, Dr. Lostenfound. Tell her what happened and ask her to call in the prescription to Main Street USA Pharmacy. 

Second, call Main Street USA Pharmacy and give them a heads-up that a prescription is on its way from Dr. Lostenfound, and ask them to call you when it’s ready. You got this!

  1. What if the laws on transferring or prescribing are stricter because your drug is a controlled substance, which includes prescription narcotics (like Vicodin or OxyContin), amphetamines or methamphetamine (like Adderall or Desoxyn), or benzodiazepines (like Ativan or Xanax), etc. 

Stay cool.

What’s up here? Controlled substances are “controlled” because they are addictive. You’ve probably heard, for example, that thousands of Americans overdose each year on prescription opioid drugs. It’s a serious public health issue, so federal law wisely limits the number of refills permitted for controlled drugs. 

There are five schedules of controlled drugs. 

  • Schedule I are illegal drugs, like cocaine or heroin. 
  • Schedule II drugs are exceedingly addictive, like fentanyl-based drugs or OxyContin. 
  • Schedule III drugs include some prescription narcotics that are mixed with other analgesics, like Tylenol, such as Vicodin. 
  • Schedule IV drugs are less addictive than those in Schedule III, and include benzodiazepines, such as Xanax, Ativan, or Valium. 

Refills for Schedule II drugs are prohibited. You need a new prescription. 

For Schedules III and IV, federal law allows five refills maximum. 

If you lost your Schedule II drug, then it’s likely you will need to call your healthcare provider who prescribed it and ask them to send it to Main Street USA Pharmacy. Usually, controlled substances are prescribed electronically and cannot be “called in.” Federal law, however, allows for an “oral” prescription (a phone call from your provider to the pharmacy) for emergencies. Your situation will likely qualify for such an exception. 

For Schedules III and IV, you may be able to get the medication using the steps above, but if it gets difficult, then just call your healthcare provider as explained above. It’s all good. 

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I forgot my meds while traveling in a foreign country

If you’re traveling abroad and you have forgotten or lost prescription medication, language and regulation barriers may become quite daunting. Let’s say you do not have your prescription with you, or foreign pharmacies won’t accept the prescription you present to them. What can you do? 

Prescription requirements vary from county to country, so it’s not a bad idea to check out a local pharmacy to see if they require a prescription for your lost drug. Many Americans are aware of this when it comes to Mexico. In fact, they travel there for the specific purpose of obtaining prescription drugs without a prescription or because the prices are much lower. We do not recommend obtaining medications that require a prescription if you do not have one. However, if you find yourself in Mexico without your needed medication, then its lax laws are the reality. There may be some drug quality variability in Mexico, but if you stick to brand name products in the original manufacturer’s packaging, it’s likely that the drugs will be the exact same ones as you can obtain in the United States. 

Americans on the northern border are more familiar with Canadian pharmacies. If you’re in Canada, you will most likely need a prescription to obtain a prescription drug from a pharmacy. The same goes for other high-income countries, such as France, Germany, Japan, and the United Kingdom. There, you may have to visit a provider to obtain a prescription locally. Some medications for which Americans are used to needing a prescription are sold over or behind the counter in other countries. Prime examples are insulin in Canada and Viagra (sildenafil) in the UK.

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Travel Insurance

If losing your medication or experiencing health issues during international travel is of significant concern, you could purchase travel insurance. If you lost or forgot your medicines, you can easily contact the assistance service company provided in your insurance policy and request help on receiving your medication out of the country. The travel concierge will be able to make calls to physicians and pharmacies at home and abroad and then guide you on the next steps. To compare travel insurance plans, see this page in Forbes

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Read more about prescription medications on Ask PharmacyChecker

Are there safe online pharmacies in Mexico?

Can Americans drive to Mexico to fill a prescription?

How can I travel with prescription drugs internationally?

Do you have questions or concerns about safely purchasing medication abroad? PharmacyChecker is here for you.

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