I've Run Out of Medication on VacationMonday, August 11, 2014
So are you planning a trip? Will you be traveling by car? Maybe you will take a bus or even go on a cruise? Packing necessary items to help you manage your diabetes will definitely make your trip more stress free. The unexpected happens though. What should you do if you go on a trip and you do not pack enough medication to see you through to get home?
Do THIS RIGHT NOW:
Do this now. Yes I said right now. The Food and Drug Administration of the United States (FDA) has a medication record form you need to fill out right now. Save one copy in your e-mail account and print three or four copies. One copy should go in your wallet next to your driver’s license. Other copies should go in your suitcase, and to your friends that will travel with you. Complete the FDA form now.
The form you filled out has the information on what you are taking, why you take it, what the medication looks like, how much you need, and the contact number for the doctor that ordered the medication for you. Write down the telephone number of the pharmacy where you get your medications as well.
Step 2: DO this next. Make sure your insurance will cover you.
Call your insurance to see what is covered when you travel. Some insurance plans do not cover any medical problems as you travel and some will cover most problems. If your plan will not cover everything that you may need which includes medication, strongly consider buying travel insurance. You need to be prepared for emergencies like not bringing enough medication on your trip. You also need to understand that the pharmacy that helps you on your travels might not accept your insurance. You may need to pay in cash to get what you need. Talk to your insurance ahead of time on how you would submit a claim if needed. Make sure you save all receipts and put them together in a safe place that you can remember.
Step 3: Call your doctor’s office.
Tell your nurse or contact person that you will be traveling and need an extra prescription in case something happens to your medication and supplies. A signed letter from the doctor explaining that you have diabetes is needed. If you use needles, syringes, insulin pump supplies, a meter etc. this should also be in the letter. Ask how you can get enough medication to cover an unanticipated delay in your travel plans home. Ask for a new prescription for each medication that you use. Each medication should be on a separate prescription form. If you take a specific brand of medication, ask that the emergency prescription states that the medication can be dispensed in a generic form if necessary. The pharmacy you go to for your emergency medications may not have the brand on hand that you normally use.
When talking to your doctor’s office, ask when you should take your medication if you travel across time zones.
Know when you travel it is important that you bring the bottle or container in which your medication was dispensed. This includes the box that insulin pens come in. You should always carry your medications and diabetes supplies on your person. In fact, it is a real good idea to travel with two meters and extra strips. Do not pack medications (even if they are extra) in luggage that may get separated from you. If there is a mix-up with your luggage, you may not have what is needed. You also can control the temperature that you are storing your medication and supplies. Ask your pharmacist for help in knowing the best way to carry your medications.
Traveling by Sea-
I was fortunate enough to ask one of the head nurses on a Carnival cruise ship last week what happens when someone does not bring enough medication on their trip or if they lose it. Here are her recommendations:
- Go to the medical unit on the ship
- The medical team will assess the problem
- The person may need to see the ship’s doctor (I was told in a forum that the ship will not leave a port without a doctor on board.). I was also told there is a complete pharmacy on board. (This MAY NOT be the case for all cruise ships though).
The following make dispensing medication easier for the ship’s medical team
- A copy of the prescription signed by the doctor
- The bottles of medication that were dispended by your pharmacy that are empty or will be used up before the cruise ends
If needed, the ship will try to contact your doctor and get orders for dispensing what you need.
Please be aware that the ship may need to give you a generic medication to cover what is needed. They do not have extra glucometers on board to loan out. They also may not have supplies available that you need for pumps. When a blood glucose measurement is needed, you would need to go to the medical unit to get checked. Be prepared to be charged for the medical services provided. They do not bill your insurance. They will give you a copy of the medical notes they wrote to provide information to your doctor and insurance. If they advise you to take certain medical steps and you do not take their advice, it is going against the medical advice of your doctor.
It is important that if you are going on a cruise that you call the cruise line to find out what they can do for you if there is a medical problem such as not having enough medications or supplies.
Traveling by car or bus or plane
The recommendations for having back up prescriptions is the same no matter how you travel. It is helpful for you if you use a national pharmacy chain in the United States and make sure that you have copies of all your medications on file. I know that when my father-in-law visited us from out of state and forgot his medications, they were all on file at our local CVS. He came in on a Saturday night and the pharmacist was able to spot him until Monday morning when he called his doctor to get his medication orders. Ask your pharmacist what can be done if you do not have enough medications when you travel and where you are going. The laws of what a pharmacist can do will vary from state to state.
Be prepared as you travel. Unforeseen events may happen such as not having enough medications. If you followed the steps above, you will have a list of your medication available and a prescription to give to the pharmacist or other medical personnel. Do not go without your medications if possible! Get help as soon as you know you will run out. Sometimes it takes time to get what is needed and what is available may not be exactly the same as what you normally use. Know that you may need to pay for the medical services at the time they are given. Know what you need to do to get reimbursed so you do not have the additional surprise of an extra medical bill.
If you are traveling outside of the United States and need insulin, make sure you know the units of insulin per milliliter of fluid in the vial that you use. If it is U-100 insulin which is the most common in the United States, this means there are 100 units of insulin per milliliter of fluid in the vial. Syringes that would be dispensed in the United States for U-100 insulin are U-100 syringes. If you are getting insulin dispensed, make sure you understand what you are getting and how much to take to equal your dose. You also will need the correct syringe to match. Different amounts of insulin per milliliter of fluid include U-40 and U-80. They may still be dispensed outside of the USA.With a little extra planning you can make your travels safer and keep your diabetes in check. If you have any experiences running out of medication when traveling, let us know how you managed it so we can learn from you.