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Healthy Traveler

Pack the Prescriptions With the Medicine

July 12, 1998|KATHLEEN DOHENY

Most travelers know the importance of carefully packing their prescription medicines in their purse or briefcase for safekeeping, and of taking more than enough to cover the length of their trip. Likewise, travelers who depend on eyeglasses or contact lenses often pack a spare pair.

Paying attention to a few other fallback measures can reduce the hassle if disaster strikes despite careful planning.

The American Optometric Assn. recommends that travelers take a copy of their contact lens or eyeglass prescription in case an emergency replacement is needed.

The traveler at least should carry the name and phone number of the eye-care specialist who wrote the prescription. If replacement lenses become necessary on the road, it will be easier to obtain a fax copy of the prescription. Otherwise, the traveler faces the expense of an examination to determine the prescription he or she needs.

Before leaving home, travelers should compile a list of all medicines that they take routinely. The list should include both prescription and over-the-counter preparations, said George Yasutake, a pharmacist at Huntington Memorial Hospital, Pasadena, and a spokesman for the American Pharmaceutical Assn. Record the brand or the generic names of prescription medicine--both if traveling outside the U.S.--the strength and how often it is taken. "Have your physician's telephone number and the phone of every physician who prescribes medicine for you on the list," he said.

In the best of circumstances, Yasutake said, "many individuals don't remember the names of the drugs they are on. And as the number of medicines people are on increases, people tend to forget the names."

Yasutake suggested making a copy of the list, putting one in your wallet and the other in your luggage.

En route, store medicines properly, Yasutake said, adding that it is best to keep pills in their original containers to help preserve potency. Travelers going from dry environments to very humid ones should avoid using pill boxes or containers with loose closures because heat and humidity can adversely affect medicines.

If a prescription medicine gets lost or spoils, there are a couple of ways to obtain a replacement. Yasutake recommended going to a community pharmacy first. If the medicine needs a doctor's prescription, the pharmacist can point the traveler to the nearest emergency room or clinic.

Or the pharmacist might call the doctor or pharmacist in the traveler's home city and take the prescription over the telephone, added Ryan Chinn, pharmacist and manager at Longs Drug Store in Tarzana.

If the doctor or pharmacist is not reachable, Chinn said, most pharmacists will still try to help out. If the pharmacist can establish with certainty what the medicine is, "we will give them enough medicine to get them home," Chinn said, speaking of typical practices of California pharmacists.

The laws vary from state to state about filling prescriptions from out-of-state prescribers. The 1997 annual survey by the National Assn. of Boards of Pharmacy found that all states except Michigan allow a pharmacist to fill an out-of-state prescription for a noncontrolled drug.

But different states have different requirements. In Nebraska, for instance, the out-of-state prescriber also must have full prescribing authority in Nebraska.

All states except Hawaii and Michigan allow pharmacists to fill out-of-state prescriptions for controlled medicines, such as narcotic pain relievers. But Massachusetts and Minnesota, for instance, will recognize such prescriptions only from contiguous states.

If the prescription is for any drug with abuse potential, Yasutake said, pharmacists ideally will verify that the prescription was written by a legal prescriber.

The Healthy Traveler appears the second and fourth week of every month.

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