Travelling with medicines – read this before you leave

With an Australian being detained in Bali for taking his prescription medicines into the country without adequate documentation, NPS MedicineWise is reminding people that with the holiday season approaching, Australians need to plan ahead when they are travelling with medicines. 

Pharmacist and Medicines Line Team Lead at NPS MedicineWise Nerida Packham says medicines are a part of life for the 9 million Australian adults who take a prescription medicine every day*.

“Taking your medicine documentation when travelling overseas is also important for other reasons,” says Ms Packham.

“Carrying a copy of your prescriptions and a letter from your doctor explaining what the medicines are for can help if you go to a doctor or pharmacist while overseas. They may not be familiar with your medicines, and different pharmacies may not carry your regular brand of medicine,” she said.

If you are travelling in the heat, keeping medicines at the right temperature is also important.

Most medicines need to be stored under 25°C as exposure to heat and sunlight can cause chemical reactions in some medicines and reduce their effectiveness. If you’re going to be driving long distances or you’ll be somewhere without electricity (such as camping), make sure any medicines are kept cool and dry in refrigerated bags.

Ms Packham advises to be sure to know the active ingredient in your usual medicine so that you can get the right medicine—and ensure you’re not doubling up on doses.

“The active ingredient is the chemical in the medicine that makes it work. The same active ingredient can come in different forms, such as in a tablet or as a liquid, and can also be sold as different brands – so it’s important to know how to recognise the active ingredient to avoid putting yourself at risk of accidental overdosing,” she said.

To help you keep track of your medicines, and to ensure you always have your medicine details on hand, NPS MedicineWise produces a Medicines List where you can record everything you take, including prescription, over-the-counter and complementary medicines. The Medicines List is available in English and 10 additional languages.

Other ways to seek out good quality, accurate, evidence-based information include looking up the Consumer Medicines Information (CMI) leaflet for your medicine via the Medicine Finder on the NPS MedicineWise website ( or in the free MedicineWise smartphone app

For more information on prescription, over-the-counter and complementary medicines (herbal, ‘natural’, vitamins and minerals) from a health professional, call NPS Medicines Line on 1300 MEDICINE (1300 633 424) for the cost of a local call (calls from mobiles may cost more). Hours of operation are Monday–Friday 9am–5pm AEST (excluding public holidays). 

*YouGov Galaxy poll for NPS MedicineWise conducted in July 2018. 
The study of 1,015 Australians aged 18 and over found 49% of respondents took a prescription medicine every day.