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Your Health

5 tips for traveling to the U.S. with medications

Jun 24 2016

Heading to the U.S. with medications in your bag? You will want to check the rules from at least three federal agencies with jurisdiction over medicine coming into the U.S.

When traveling back to the United States, you’ll fall under the authority of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agents operating the nation’s airports. There are varying restrictions, so be sure to check with each agency before bringing any medications into the U.S.

Here are some tips to help you prepare.

Have the appropriate documentation

When traveling, your medication should be in its original container with the doctor’s instructions printed on the bottle. If you don’t have the original container, be sure to have a valid copy of your prescription or a letter from your doctor explaining your condition and why you need this medication. This applies to any medications for family members as well.

Do not import any generic medications that may be available

The FDA does not permit personal importation of FDA-approved drugs made in foreign countries. The FDA cannot assure that foreign-made versions of FDA-approved drugs have been properly manufactured, are safe and effective and use the same formula as the FDA-approved versions in the U.S.

Travelers coming into the U.S. should be aware that prescription medications in other countries may be illegal here. If you have questions, contact the country that you are traveling from through the U.S. Department of State website, to find out which drugs to avoid.

If you are traveling to the U.S. temporarily and need your prescription mailed to you, there is a highly-regulated process through the FDA and the CBP that can help you get your prescription.

Over-the-counter (OTC) medicines are generally okay for travel

Since OTC drugs, herbs and supplement products usually fall under the jurisdiction of the FDA, they are generally okay for importation as long as you are carrying the products in your possession (such as in your luggage) and the amount being carried is an amount reasonably considered for personal use (commonly a 90-day supply at the most).

Declare your medications to travel authorities

By declaring your medications when you get to any security checkpoint, you’re making the travel authorities aware of your medications, which can help you through the security process. Notifying the respective authorities before your medication goes through any X-ray machine or before being searched, may avoid unpacking and repacking of your medication while going through security.

Keep your medication in your carry-on

It’s a good rule of thumb to pack your medications in your carry-on bag to avoid time without your prescriptions due to baggage delays or theft during travel. Keep medications accessible in a separate bag within your carry-on bag so you can remove them during the security screening with the respective travel authorities.

If you have any questions regarding traveling with your prescriptions or OTC medications, you can visit the FDA website.