Travel Assistance 101: How to Get a Prescription Filled When Traveling Abroad

You arrive at your hotel, and you notice you forgot to pack your prescription medicine. Great, now what? Feeling panicked, you ask your hotel concierge where the closest pharmacy is located, and as luck would have it, there is a pharmacy right down the street from your hotel. Now, all you have to do is ask your doctor to fax in your prescription and you’ll be on your merry way! Right? Well…not necessarily.

Pharmaceutical laws and regulations vary by country, so getting a prescription on foreign soil isn’t always as simple as it sounds. Further complicating matters, doctors in one country can’t necessarily prescribe medicine in another country. On Call’s Global Response Center receives several of these inquiries daily, and has some great recommendations for travelers who need to get their prescriptions filled abroad—and back to their trips—as quickly (and as painlessly) as possible:

Know Who to Call: While your physician can be a helpful resource in these situations, in the event your prescription is not honored in your location abroad, travelers enrolled in our global emergency assistance programs can call On Call directly and we can recommend a clinic or physician locally. From there, this provider can quickly evaluate you and provide a local prescription. This is typically the fastest way to have your prescription filled. Should the exact prescription not be available in your destination, or is sold under a different brand name, our medical team will confirm which drugs are safe alternatives for your condition. Most prescription problems can be solved with this process.

Have a Plan B: Depending on local customs laws, sometimes we’re able to help ship prescriptions directly to our travelers. This solution works well for travelers whose intentions are to stay in one location for a longer period of time and/or those who are in developing countries where pharmacies aren’t readily available. In some instances, we can even help our travelers get transported to the location of the medication they need and return them to their original destination once they have received the required treatments.

Some Additional Tips to Keep in Mind:

    • Pack a copy or two of your original prescription information–this will help assist your local treating doctor in the event they have any questions or concerns.

    • If you have a preexisting medical condition, ask your doctor to write a letter, describing the medical condition and any prescription medications, including the generic names of prescribed drugs (since in some countries, prescription drugs might have a different name).

    • Always pack your medications in your carry-on, not your checked baggage! This is one of the leading causes of lost prescriptions abroad, and can easily be avoided.

    • Keep prescription medications in their original pharmacy-labeled containers to avoid questions, or confiscation, at customs.


Want to learn more?
For over 25 years, On Call International has provided fully-customized travel risk management and global assistance services protecting millions of travelers, their families, and their organizations. Contact us today and watch our video to learn more. You can also stay in touch with On Call’s in-house risk management, travel health and security experts by signing up for our quarterly Travel Risk Management (TRM) newsletter.