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Doctors note for prescription meds?

Hello, I will be traveling to Greece this May and bringing my prescription meds. I realize they must be in their original bottle from the pharmacy. I have read, however that I will also need a written statement from my doctor with a list of all meds prescribed which he must sign and date. Is this really necessary? Would they actually confiscate my prescriptions if I do not have this statement. Seems odd because the doctor name is on the bottle, as of course is mine and date filled.

Posted by
21334 posts

Is that a requirement you read somewhere that is specific to Greece? Are the drugs narcotics or something else that might have substantial street value?

Customs authorities have the right to examine the contents of your luggage as you enter a country, but that is quite rarely done, especially if you don't look like a young hippie. And even if Customs did, for some reason, look inside your luggage/purse, I think it's unlikely there would be a problem with pills in pharmacy bottles.

It is never prudent to count 100% on other people's experiences (or your own on earlier trips), but I've never carried a doctor's letter, and on my three most recent trips I've dumped three of my (small) prescription meds into a single bottle, with all three labels carelessly attached to it. I have traveled with up to 4-1/2 months' worth of those meds, plus vitamins and supplements. The vitamins and supplements were not necessarily in their original containers. That's just to show how not-worried I am, not to suggest that you should do the same thing. On a short trip, the extra bulk from keeping things in their original containers would probably not be significant.

Of more concern to me is that my luggage might go astray, so I don't put any of the meds/supplements in a bag I'm going to check on a plane. I try to remember to hand-carry everything on inter-city trains and buses, too, but I don't always remember to do that.

Posted by
8889 posts

Have you still got a copy of the original prescription? If so that should be enough, though of course a prescription from a foreign doctor is not valid to get new supplies.

I have never heard of such a requirement, though it is often recommanded to have a list. I keep a copy of the repeat prescription on my phone, but I have never needed it. Customs are not stupid, they know the difference between prescribed medicines and drugs. And they only stop a small random sample (unless you look suspicious).

Now, if you were entering a middle eastern or a south-east Asian country I would be more concerned about paperwork.

Posted by
6514 posts

I, and others, have traveled all over the world with prescription meds without a doctor's note. I just carry them in the original container or, if I put them in a baggie I include a copy of the prescription. But I have never been asked about them anywhere - which is not to say you might be asked, it would depend on the situation. Are they liquids that don't comply with the 3-1-1 sizes and need to be carried on as 'medically necessary' - then you might need a doctor's note to that effect. Also, for narcotics, you may need it.

Posted by
3485 posts

We have traveled to Greece and throughout the world and always carry prescription medications in original containers without any issues. That said, if you lose your medications in original containers, it is advisable to have a print out of all your prescribed medications. I have the ability to copy this list from my health provider website.

Posted by
166 posts

I would encourage you to get a letter with the doctor's office letterhead that lists your medication and is signed and dated to take with you. I have done this over the last 10 years of travel and only had to use it once but the moment i produced the letter everything was no longer an issue and I was on my way. I see it as insurance in case you run into a overly zealous TSA/customs/whatever agent. The most important meds that have to be in there original bottle are narcotic pain pills, they are not as picky about blood pressure, cardiac or other meds.

Posted by
8293 posts

donseery, my doctor would charge $50 to provide such a document.

Posted by
166 posts

Norma,
If my doctor charged me for a simple letter like this I would get a new doctor! LOL

(With electronic medical records it is very simple to generate a letter like this)

Posted by
8293 posts

It is such a simple matter to just take one’s medications in the pharmacy vials, which are labelled with the the prescription no. and the MD’s name and licences number.

Posted by
3659 posts

There are some state laws that require prescription meds to be in original containers, but they are rarely enforced and I can only remember reading about one case in the last 20 years. To the best of my knowledge (I could be wrong and I'm not a lawyer) there is no such federal requirement. Other countries are another situation and I do not know what the Greek requirements are -- perhaps you could email the Greek tourist office (or consulate) and get a definitive answer. At any rate, this is what we do to save space & weight. We have the pharmacist print out extra labels. We put our pills in a freezer zip lock and put the extra label on it. We then take the original data sheet that came with the RX with you to show that it is for us. We have been to many European countries, including Greece, and have never had a problem. That's not to say it can't happen, but that's been our experience.

Posted by
996 posts

Our MD would never provide a 'duplicate' copy of a prescription. We did once take a phone photo of a scrip, but if the medicine is in the original prescription container and DOES NOT exceed the amount written on the bottle (as in qty: 18) then you should be fine.

Having said that, you may want to check in each individual country you're visiting to see if they have meds prohibited which are allowed in the US.

Posted by
5697 posts

My meds come in 90-day prescription, so I count out the number I need (plus 10) and put them in a snack size Ziploc with the label from the original bottle stuck on. One labeled baggie for each prescription, all contained in a bigger Ziploc.

When we were carrying prescription pain pills (controlled substances), we made sure they were in the original bottle.

Posted by
3485 posts

In addition to recommendations on this thread see "Traveling with medications?
Here's how to keep within the law." By Tanya Mohn, The New York Times.
Also published in the Seattle Sunday Times, 2/11/18, "NW Traveler." Seattletimes.com/travel.

Posted by
8293 posts

donseery ...... though my doctor charges for a letter such as you describe, there is no charge at all when I have a medical appointment.

Posted by
8020 posts

We always dump our pills into a baggie each and have done this for over 20 years in countries all over the world. Then I print out the list from either our pharmacy account or the doctor’s account which is affiliated with the hospital. The only problem we ever had was when a French MD asked for names of our RXs and we said the US brand names. He wanted the generic name. So now we print the list which also gives the Latin or generic names of our RXs.

Posted by
3493 posts

Chris F (and all),

In the US, a doctor writes you a signed prescription which you hand in at the pharmacy. You in turn receive a bottle with the equivalent text printed on the label but not the doctors signature. You do not get to keep the actual prescription, you do not get a duplicate copy of it to retain. And now, more and more doctors are sending in the prescriptions online so there is no paper prescription at all, just the bottle with the label on it. In fact, the only paper prescription I have been given in about 5 years from my doctors is one for a narcotic pain killer when I had dental surgery.

You can get a doctor to write out a letter listing your various prescriptions and what they treat. My general guy did that when I was headed to a part of the world that might require it (turns out I didn't need it). But he would only write the letter for the things he prescribed. I had to talk with 2 other doctors to get letters for everything.

I think the requirement for the letter is because that would be easier to have translated than the small print on a medicine bottle as well as stating what they are treating which the bottle label doesn't.

Posted by
186 posts

Medicine is treated a bit differently in Greece; pharmacists can dispense many common medications directly to customers without a doctor's prescription. I would think as long as you have the original bottles with your meds, you will be fine.

Posted by
162 posts

Thanks to everyone for responding. I think I will skip the doctor's note and just take my meds in original containers - just enough for my length of stay and perhaps a few more. I am not bringing any narcotic meds so shouldn't be any problems.

Posted by
11292 posts

"just enough for my length of stay and perhaps a few more. "

Definitely bring a few more. This is far more important than the doctor's note. If you're delayed for any reason (remember the volcano in Iceland a few years ago?), you won't want to be worried about getting your meds.

Posted by
3485 posts

Harold, good point about bringing extra prescription medications!