Don’t be caught off guard, check your medication supply

At this time of year, medication mishaps are not uncommon as people travel or snow storms can make getting anywhere difficult, says Bonnie Lee, a pharmacist at St. Joseph’s Health Care London.  Unforeseen circumstances can leave people stranded without the medication they rely on.

Pharmacist Bonnie Lee with patient

To avoid prescription pitfalls at this time of year, St. Joseph’s pharmacists have the following tips: 

  1. For regular maintenance medications such as blood pressure drugs, diabetes medications, and blood thinners, a minimum one week's supply is recommended at all times.  If you are down to one week's supply of medications, it’s time to re-order. This helps ensure that therapy isn't interrupted due bad weather or other hiccups, such as a temporary supply glitch at the pharmacy or refills that have run out requiring the pharmacist to contact the physician.
  2. Before travelling, always check that you will have sufficient supply of your regular medications. Don’t wait till you are en route or at your destination. 
  3. When travelling, especially if leaving the country for the holidays, it’s best to bring everything in original labelled vials/containers from your pharmacy as they will have the most essential information on the prescription label  – your name, the medication name, dosage, directions,  number of refills remaining, and the prescriber’s name.  It’s also possible to have your medications packaged for the duration of your trip (e.g. dosette, blister pack) that is labelled with all required info as well.
  4. Travellers should also carry a wallet card with all of their medication information.
  5. If you are carrying any unusual medication, check that it is legal and readily available in the country you’re travelling to. Before you leave, contact the foreign government office of the country you plan to visit  to make sure the medical supplies you intend to bring are allowed into the destination country.
  6. Carry your meds in your carry-on bag, not in checked luggage in case your luggage gets lost. Pack an extra supply of medication in case you are away for longer than expected.
  7. Check if your medication requires refrigeration. Consult the product label and/or your pharmacist for direction. For example, if a medication is out of refrigeration, information is available on how long it remains safe to use. Travel cold packs are readily available if required.
  8. If you are out of your town and realize you have forgotten a medication, go to the nearest pharmacy and request assistance. In some cases, the pharmacist may be able to dispense an emergency supply for the remainder of your trip.  Or, if you have refills remaining on the prescription, you can have the refills transferred to a local pharmacy for pick up there instead (some restrictions apply).

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