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Flying with drugs (not DMDs)

Hi All,

Has anyone experienced any difficulties flying with prescription (or non-prescription) drugs?

It looks like I may have an impromptu trip coming up in the next few days, and I haven’t time to get a covering letter from my GP, and I don’t think I’ve even kept the prescriptions.

I’d be travelling with (at least) Baclofen, Diazepam, Qunine, Codeine, Paracetamol, Ibuprofen and Microgynon (oral contraceptive).

Plus Vitamin D & Magnesium. The latter are in a huge jar I don’t want to take, so I’d rather count out the number I need for the trip and wrap in a twist of cling film or something. But then I’ll have no proof they’re only magnesium - they’ll just be some white pills.

Anyone had any aggro with this?

I would want all my medication in my hand luggage, just in case the hold luggage goes astray. Obviously anything I can’t do without stays with me.

Would it be prudent to call the carrier and warn them I’ll be travelling with prescription drugs, or am I worrying about nothing?

I have walked through with about three bottles of liquid morphine before - for my father, not myself - and nobody batted an eyelid. Staff did seem to have some kind of sixth sense about what’s legit and what’s not. But maybe my dad looked rather more sick than I do, and I think a family with an old couple attracts less suspicion anyway.

This time I’ll be on my own.

Tina

Depends where you’re headed, Tina. There are countries in the world where you would find yourself in hot water if they found opiate-based painkillers like codeine in your possession, particularly if you don’t even have the prescription with you. I imagine that the same places would get an extra fit of the vapours if they found benzodiazepines too.

I expect the FCO has good info on the gov.uk site or similar sources.

Wherever I was headed with those kind of drugs, I would definitely want to carry a prescription. Your pharmacy should be able to print a copy off for you.

Alison

It’s Austria!

The doctor’s have just rung back and the receptionist said she’ll put it in the tray, but can’t guarantee it will be done - ring Wednesday to see if it is!

But I’m meant to be leaving Thursday, so obviously can’t book non-refundable flights if I don’t know if I’m legal to travel.

I wonder if prescription (run off by the pharmacy) plus MS card, proof of diagnosis etc. will be sufficient?

Possibly yes, at this end, because they’ll have seen stuff like that before, but I can’t really expect Austrian authorities to be familiar with our systems.

And I don’t think of Austria as one of the most laid-back and flexible regimes I could be visiting. I’ll resist any jokes about jack-boots… Obviously I wouldn’t be wanting to visit if I thought they all conformed to that negative stereotype, but I have a feeling Customs might.

Tina

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Hi Tina

I’ve not been to Austria but I’ve flown with most of the drugs you’ve named and never had a problem. And last time I put all the bigger non-prescription type (vit D, calcium &magnesium) in one unlabelled jar as the pots are too big otherwise. I always carry drugs in hand luggage just in case, and it does end up being a whole big bag on its own! Last time I went away I started worrying that my catheters (also always in hand luggage) each contain some saline solution, so I got a letter from my MS nurse. No one asked to see the letter.

I can’t see you having a problem at all.

Hope the trip is for a good purpose and you enjoy it.

Sue

As long as it’s Austria and not Dubai, you should be fine!

Just follow your own advice and never, ever joke with anyone anywhere in the world who has powers of arrest. Sense of humour is famously not their strong suit and they’re the ones who get to decide what’s funny and what isn’t.

You might want to check if any of non-prescription drugs are illegal in the country you are going to.

I am thinking particularly about codeine - I know that it is illegal to bring ANY medication containing ANY amount of Codeine into Greece unless it is prescribed and having it in your possession could cause a few problems.

A quick look on Wikipedia says that Codeine is only available in Austria on Prescription or dispensed by a pharmacist at his discretion. I don’t know if this would affect someone bringing a strip of Solpadeine (available over the counter at Boots) or similar into the country.

Codeine is classed as a narcotic and is controlled as such. And yes, over the counter Codeine based medicine can be addictive, my Mother in Law could not function without her Solpadeine which she was taking in enormous amounts almost to the point of damaging her kidneys etc.

Thanks for mentioning catheters, we are going on holiday in December, and I was concerned about this, I’ve not been abroad since I started self catheterising. Do you take your entire supply in hand luggage?

Yes, always take all your catheters as hand luggage. Because if your hold baggage was lost (thankfully that’s never happened to me but still…) then you’d be stuck, and if you’re reliant on the things then you’d be in trouble. So I had my MS nurse write me a letter just in case. Much like when I used copaxone and travelled with needles, they always went in hand luggage and it was in order to get through security. Not that anyone ever wanted to look at the letter I carried then either!

1 Like

One of the drugs is codeine - however, mine is on prescription - all my painkillers are. You can’t buy codeine on its own without prescription any more, as I only recently discovered when the prescription was a bit late in coming, and I though I might need to buy some to tide me over.

Vitamins & supplements are the only non-prescription stuff I have.

T.

hope you enjoy your holiday.

Hi Tina,

I regularly go to Austria (by coach or plane) with lots of prescription drugs including tramadol and codeine I just make sure they are labelled and have the prescription sheet not that anyone has ever needed to see it. Yes have something that proves u have MS. Have fun I love Austria it’s beautiful.

Snowqueen x

Thanks, that’s the most encouraging so far, because it’s specific experience of the destination.

I wish I’d kept the stupid prescription sheet! I almost always do, to the point I usually have several kicking about the place at once, but I must recently have got fed up and had a turnout, because I never, ever use them for anything. Isn’t that always the way?

Tina

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What I always did with prescription drugs in the past (I used to take a LOT for non-MS issues) was to always take them in the sealed strip they were dispensed in rather than taking them loose in my daily pill box as I would have them normally at home. This means that they are identified as a particular medication in a tamper proof strip.

I also took the outer cardboard box that the drugs had been dispensed in as these would have a signed sticker from the pharmacy showing that they had been dispensed to someone with your name which would match your passport I used to open these boxes flat so they didn’t take up loads of room.

I used to travel all over the world and, I have to admit, I was only ever organised enough to get a letter from my GP once or twice. I never had problems with customs or airline security even travelling to the US and the Middle East.

The only issue I ever had with airline security was when the fake-leather of my my cheap handbag tested gave a fake positive reading for explosives when travelling to Dublin. (Could have been far worse - the false positive explosive traces that implicated the Birmingham 6 probably came from them playing cards with plastic coated playing cards.)

Have a good trip.

Do you get your repeat prescriptions collected from the GP by your pharmacist? If so, they might have a copy of the latest repeat request part of the prescription on their records and they might be able to give you a copy.

Thanks,

I already think the GP-letter is a bit of a no-no. It’s causing me more stress not knowing whether it will be ready in time, and feeling I can’t make any flight bookings in the meantime!

Because I’m slow, and can only do a little a day, it will probably take all my time between now and Wednesday to get packed and ready, without making emergency trips to the doctor to collect letters (I don’t drive, and the surgery is a walk and a bus ride away).

I really think I need to cut down on non-essential errands, if I’m going to do this at all, because it’s already very stressful and out-of-character for me to agree to such a thing at such short notice - you know last-minute planning doesn’t sit well with MS!

And I need to do things like buy Euros and get travel insurance. This obviously can’t all wait 'til the day before departure, when I find out whether the doctor’s have got their finger out in time.

So I pretty much have to make the decision NOW whether I’m going ahead with or without the doctor’s letter, as everything can’t go on hold just for that!

Tina

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Wasn’t sure whether your codeine was on prescription or whether you took it in the form of one of the strong painkillers that are available that are a combination of Paracetemol and Codeine (eg Solpadeine Extra) or Ibuprofen and Codeine (eg Neurofen Extra).

The only reason I mentioned it was that lots of people come a cropper with the authorities in Greece etc when they are found in possession of an illegal narcotic which is perfectly legal in the UK!

Sorry I went off topic. I do have an issue with addictions to what are legal over the counter drugs. It is a very real problem that can cause very serious health issues but because you can buy them so easily not a lot of people take it seriously.

Yes, I do. Still quite a detour for me to go to, but not as far as the doc’s, AND, presumably, they wouldn’t make a charge.

I’ve got a feeling I’m going to end up paying for a doctor’s letter that will be too late to be any use anyway!

I’m wondering whether to ring them Monday, and say: “Don’t worry, I’ve decided to chance it without.” But perhaps I should make sure whether the pharmacy can run me off a copy of the 'scrip, first. Obviously, not a new prescription - just the counterfoil part that says what you have on repeat. But come to think of it, it’s the surgery that issues those, isn’t it? On the green paper?

Rather than the letter, I wonder if I should just be asking the surgery for a print-off of my repeat prescriptions list. After all, it takes only two minutes to pull off an existing file - much quicker than composing a letter!

Why oh why didn’t I keep the damn thing? I always keep them! I must have decided that because I’d never needed them or even referred to them ever again, the time had come to stop routinely hoarding them.

I never even thought about foreign travel, because it’s nearly five years since I went anywhere. Even had to check I still had a valid passport (luckily, yes).

Tina

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I don’t know about getting a repeat prescription list from the GP. Mine come as half of the standard NHS prescription form - ie the left hand half of the A4 that is white rather than the green prescription that the pharmacist uses. I would be surprised if they can print one off without the other.

TBH I would probably stop stressing about the meds. If you have drugs that are clearly prescribed and/or legal ie in their foil strips and you have the boxes that the pharmacist dispensed them to you and you have something that indicates that you have a medical condition (such as a letter from your consultant) I would be very surprised if you had an issue.

However, if there was anything that would worry me, it would be having a twist of clingfilm containing various loose unidentified pills. Whilst I would be surprised if they did cause issues - after all you will not be the only person who takes vitamins travelling and illegal drugs do tend to look a little bit different to legal supplements why give any grounds for a delay?

Ask yourself. How long am I going for? Can I do without my supplements for that time? If I can’t bear the idea of being without the supplements for a short time, can I take the (very small) risk of my luggage going AWOL and put the supplements in my hold luggage instead?

Being without Pain relief is one thing but Magnesium or a Multi Vit is another!

The only time my luggage has been delayed was when we changed planes in Bharain. Our plane was late arriving and our luggage wasn’t transferred to our connection in time. It was put on the next plane to our destination and was delivered to the hotel 12 hours later with no problems.

Don’t sweat the small stuff Tina. Get your Euros from your local bank or the Post Office. If you have a Thomas Cook etc near you you can order online and click and collect Euros etc. Some larger Supermarkets have Beureau de Change as well. Don’t make special exhausting journeys to save pennies. Find out (your bank’s website will tell you) what the charges are to use you Debit Card in an ATM in Austria - sometimes this is as cheap or even cheaper than getting it in the UK. (Although I wouldn’t bother getting my Euros at the Airport because you will be harassed enough waiting for you flight etc)

Above all, have a good time.

I still don’t know if it’s happening, to be honest - apart from the drugs issue.

Thursday, there were apparently NO direct flights to be had, and even the ones with transfers were at dreadful times (dreadful for anyone with MS, that is - departing at the crack of dawn, or arriving really late, meaning I’d be checking into the hotel at 1 a.m.)

As recently as yesterday, a few had started to appear, including some really decently timed and decently priced ones, which I obviously should have snapped up.

Today, most of the decently timed ones have disappeared, and the few that remain have almost doubled in price: £260 to £450!

I don’t know if they may re-appear if I wait 'til Monday. I don’t have vast experience of this, but last time I tried it, a good time to search was just after 5 p.m. on a weekday, when the business demand drops off, triggering price falls.

It’s not going to be a “cheap” holiday anyway - especially for a last minute whim. I’m already resigned to at least £1000, before spending money! I’m not looking for an absolutely bargain basement holiday. But £260 to £450 for the flights is one heck of a jump!

Tina

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Where are you looking for your flights?