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How to fill your medication while on vacation

Getting ready to go on vacation? Planning a week or two away from home? Whether you are traveling near or far—for a few days or for a few months—filling your medications while you are away can be a concern.

What happens if your medication is going to run out while you are away? Unless you personally have experienced this, you may not appreciate the challenge.

  • Some medications cannot be filled early due to insurance restrictions. Therefore you cannot just ask your pharmacy to fill it again before you leave, unless you are almost out.
  • Some medications cannot be filled early due to doctor restrictions. Your doctor may not provide you with another order, or refill, until you are within a few days of running out. This is sometimes the case with pain medications.

And of course, vacations are not the only reason that you may run out of your medication while away. I have had people come to the pharmacy who need to leave town quickly to attend a funeral and are concerned about their medication running out. Sometimes an unexpected business trip will take you across the country without much notice. Those of you who drive trucks for a living know that this issue is frequently encountered.

In this brief article I am going to share with you several things you can do if run out of your medications while on vacation or away from home.

Note

This article is not meant to replace the advice of your medical professional. I’m simply a pharmacist giving advice to readers who are concerning about refilling their legally and properly prescribed medications while on the road.

Facts, Tips, and Suggestions

Having worked as a pharmacist for over 17 years, and being a pharmacy employee for over half my life, I know there are many unique circumstances that may make refilling your meds while traveling difficult. Since it would be impossible to give you advice on every specific scenario, I have chosen to present you with several facts and tips to help you manage the situation where your medication will run out while you are traveling away from home.

Fact #1: Nearly every medication can be refilled at nearly any pharmacy in the U.S. Chances are, if you are away from home right now and need a refill, you can bring your bottle to a local pharmacy and they can fill it.

Example: You take Lipitor 20mg and you will run out in 2 days while vacationing on Myrtle Beach, SC. You live in Massachusetts. Bring your bottle into any local pharmacy and ask them if they can transfer the medication and fill it for you. Be sure to show them your insurance card and see if they participate in your plan. If not, call the 800# on your card and ask a customer service representative to find you a local pharmacy that accepts your insurance.

Fact #2: Most doctors will provide you with a medication order you can bring with you and fill at another U.S. pharmacy while you are away. Simply contact your doctor’s office before leaving and ask them if you could pick up an order for your medication to take with you while you are away. This approach may be good if you are going to be gone for an extended trip, your medication is out of refills, or if your pill is for a controlled substance that cannot be transferred.

Example: You take a medicine known as Lyrica to treat fibromyalgia. A few days before you leave for your trip, call your doctor’s office and ask if they could provide you with an order to take with you while you are away. Give them a day to take care of this, and then drop into the office to pick it up.

Fact #3: Many pharmacists will mail you your medication for no additional cost. If you happen to be traveling to an area where a local pharmacy is not available (not sure where that would be these days…but just in case!) then call your home pharmacy and ask them if they will refill and mail you your medication. Remember to give them your correct address…or they may mail it to your home!

Example: You are a diabetic patient and take Actos to help control blood sugar levels. You call your pharmacy and ask them if they could refill your Actos and mail it to you in Hawaii since you have decided to stay an extra 2 weeks and do some deep sea fishing. They may take your credit card number, fill it, and ship it out to your hotel.

7 Suggestions From Your Friendly Pharmacist

I’ve been doing this for a while now. Running out of your medication can be frightening, and I have seen many an upset customer worry excessively about this issue. So allow me to make a few calm suggestions which should make filling your medicine while traveling a little less difficult.

1. Two weeks before leaving on your trip, make a list of the medications that you are going to run out of while away. These are the ones you need to now focus on.

2. Before leaving for any trip in which you may run out of medication, see if you can refill it at your home pharmacy to avoid running out while away. Some insurance plans allow for what they call a “vacation supply override.” This means that your pharmacy can refill your meds early (before you run out) in order to allow for your vacation plans. A simple call to your insurance provider could determine if your plan allows for this.

3. Don’t wait until the very last moment to try to transfer your medication while on vacation. Walking into a pharmacy 15 minutes before you are due to take your next pill and telling them you need it transferred quickly is a sure recipe for frustration. I recommend you bring in your bottle at least 3 days before you are due to run out. Give them the information they need. And then plan to return later the next day to see if it is ready. Better yet…take a business card and call them the next day before coming in, just to see if it is all set. Remember…the pharmacy may need to order your medication as it may not be something they ordinarily stock. This can take 1-2 days on weekdays to receive.

4. If at all possible, try to find a pharmacy within the same “chain” that you use back home. If you use a Wal-Mart pharmacy in Massachusetts, try to find a Wal-Mart pharmacy in Myrtle Beach. This isn’t absolutely necessary (as explained above), but it may make things a bit easier.

5. If you are leaving the country on a trip, then you almost certainly must bring enough medication with you as your order for medicine will not be valid outside the U.S. In this case, you must refill it before leaving for a sufficient quantity to cover your travel time and you may even have to pay for this supply if your insurance does not allow for such an early refill.

6. Will you be visiting friends or family? Ask them which local pharmacy, if any, they use and get the phone number for that pharmacy before leaving on your trip. Call them now and ask them if you will have any trouble transferring your meds to their pharmacy while you are there on your vacation and/or visit.

7. Finally, if you cannot find a pharmacy that takes your insurance (for example, many state Medicaid plans are only valid within your home state) you can always consider paying for a small amount of the medication yourself, just enough to cover your vacation needs.

I hope this brief article and these few tips will help clear up any concerns you may have about filling your medication while on vacation!