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Getting meds filled early for the trip.

Here is a topic I haven’t seen before: Getting meds filled early for the trip.

First, I have saved a set of medication bottles and marked them “Holiday”. Whenever I miss taking a dose, the pills go into those bottles. I am not good with my meds, so I built up quite a stash. But I used most of that last trip.

Some meds I can purchase in Europe but one isn’t legal in the EU so I have to make sure I am carrying it. And it’s the one that keep me alive, quite literally.

I am sure ever insurance company and pharmacy is different, so just one experience.

I went to pharmacy, they said no go, call your insurance company.

I called the insurance company United HealthCare (nurse hotline) and that poor woman worked her tail off for me.

She called the United pharmacy department and they told her she needed to get the pharmacy to request a refill and get rejected.

Then she called the pharmacy and told them to run the refill as United first needed it to be rejected.

Then with the rejection notice she called the right department at United to request the override and was told the entire process had to be done no more than 7 days prior to leaving the country.

So, I repeat in a few weeks.

Failing that I just pay cash and move on.

Posted by
1259 posts

Call your doc. Explain your predicament. Every doctor has dealt with schedule weirdness for rx like vacations, summer camps, international travel, theft, or loss. You might be able to get the current rx cancelled and a new one issued. You might be able to get the new rx for a larger number of doses.

Posted by
26511 posts

Welcome to my world.

Blue Cross/Blue Shield was OK with extended vacation overrides. I'm now with Aetna, which requires more hoop-jumping if I need more than a 90-day supply. I've learned to be careful about the following, but something always seems to go wrong and take things down to the wire.

  • I must have enough refills remaining to cover the extra-large refill. Request to doctor often required.

  • Aetna won't accept a request for a larger-than-90-day refill until ten days before departure, and the refill is usually completed no more than five days out.

  • Vacation refills in excess of 90 days require approval by some special person with whom I am not allowed to speak. I have to talk to a pharmacy agent and trust him or her to get the request documented accurately.

  • Such late requests for vacation refills are dispensed by a local pharmacy even if normal refills are done via mail order. That makes the vacation refills cost more, in most cases.

  • I have a maintenance prescription taken once a week. It is packaged four pills to a box, so a box is a four-week supply, not a one-month supply. The difference becomes more significant on longer trips. Explaining that four boxes are not enough for four months is a problem every.single.year. It's agony. This is my only really expensive prescription. I'm not willing to pay hundreds of dollars out of pocket every year because some folks are math-challenged.

This normally turns out to be the most stressful aspect of arranging a long trip.

Posted by
10886 posts

I call my pharmacy and ask for a “ vacation lift.” I do this the week before we leave and have never had any problems getting what I need for the duration of my travels.

Posted by
4199 posts

I make it a habit to always refill the prescription a few days before it runs out and that way I accumulate some extra. Of course, this wouldn't work for a long trip.

Posted by
8042 posts

My wife has been on pain management for the past 22 years. In recent years, she has had to visit her pain management clinic monthly in order to get refills on a couple of controlled medicine prescriptions.

We have to coordinate international trips with the dates doctor's visits are projected to be. There's no override of her situation legally with states watching every controlled prescription by doctors and also pharmacies.

We'll never be able to take long cruises or go to Europe for extended trips. It's just how it is.

Posted by
14470 posts

On the topic of prescribed meds to take on a trip, I bungled that once. This particular med is vital to me.

Lucky I was in Berlin when I discovered in an uncalled for moment of panic in the Pension that I had miscounted the number of pills needed by 50%. The proprietor of the Pension told me no need to go the 24 hr pharmacy in Berlin Hbf, which automatically came to mind, but just go to the pharmacy down the block.

This was on a Saturday morning....lucky too. One look at my med container, the pharmacist told me that a prescription from a German doctor was needed for this med to be distributed, ie. before anything. She told me to go to the Klinik down the block, take a right, ie 2 mins away. As a walk-in I talked to nurse/secretary, who was only interested in whether I was a resident in Germany...not interested in anything else and there would be a payment afterwards.

In about 20 mins I talked to the doc, who then wrote the prescription, paid the nurse/secretary for this walk-in visit. Only cash was accepted. She made that clear to me right from the outset: only cash , no problem. Since this was Berlin, I knew all three persons I had to deal with , the doc, pharmacist, and nurse all spoke fluent English if that was necessary. It turned out that was not needed, and I got my meds.

Bottom sure your counting of the needed pills is accurate.

Posted by
583 posts

I live in Canada so regulations may be different. I am Type II diabetic and take insulin each night. What I have done is make sure that I have enough meds to cover the period I am away, plus 1 week. Never had any hassles from insurance on doing this.

Posted by
6965 posts

“ First, I have saved a set of medication bottles and marked them “Holiday”. Whenever I miss taking a dose, the pills go into those bottles. I am not good with my meds, so I built up quite a stash. But I used most of that last trip.”

Just a comment about this method. If you have meds with expiration dates, you could be stashing pills that could be expired by the time you take your trip. Some meds are affected or possibly could be harmful. If you’re wanting a count of how many “extra pills” you have, maybe have a tally sheet, instead.

Posted by
1559 posts

My solution is a long term plan. I refill all my meds as soon as I can (All meds can be refilled about 2 weeks early). Over several years I have built up to a 3 month minimum supply. Now I just refill my meds when I get down to the 3 month level.

Posted by
85 posts

I also refill my meds as soon as possible and have built up a nice cushion. I recommend bringing an extra week's worth of meds when travelling. A few years ago, an air traffic controller strike had me "stuck" overseas for a few more days but because I had brought extra pills I wasn't concerned about running out.

Posted by
10148 posts

I do what Bob and SueH do and I have quite a stash built up. I had no problem last year traveling on a 6 week and a 10 week trip. I always bring about 2 weeks extra worth of meds. One never knows what might delay a return home.

Posted by
198 posts

Thank you everyone for sharing your experiences and suggestions. I really appreciate them and can totally relate. I also under-counted once even though I doublechecked. I also carry extra. I've been stranded too.

I'm curious how you pack your meds: Do you carry the original containers so you would have the label for the overseas pharmacist? I don't care to carry the original bottles. They take too much room.

I asked, but my online pharmacist cannot print me up a paper label. Don't know why. I got a very strange reason that to this day I still don't understand.

I've tried peeling the label off and then sticking it on a baggie. Often this doesn't work. The label gets destroyed.

Many thanks in advance for your help. And I wish you all safe travels.

Posted by
198 posts

Hi AMann, I too rather use baggies to carry my meds for lots of practical reasons. I just need to figure out how to stick the prescription label on them. Thanks for your prompt response.

Posted by
85 posts

I put each med into its own small pill baggie, and all of those go into a larger baggie. I also take one of those small weekly pill boxes as it helps me keep track if I took my meds or not.
Until recently, I never considered taking a copy of my prescriptions/pill bottle labels and I've never been asked about my meds (which are in my carry on) when travelling. But about a year ago, probably on this forum, I read about taking documentation, so now I do. My pharmacy automatically gives me a paper copy of the pill bottle labels and also a drug fact sheet that has my name, Rx#, filled date, and the dosage. I guess if I didn't have that, then I'd carefully peel the labels off the empty bottles (heat from a hair dryer helps loosen the sticky backing of the labels).

Posted by
3877 posts

To bring it back around to actually getting enough medicine ahead of time, instead of how to pack them, I ran into this for the first time last fall and expect to do so more often as I am staying gone longer. Up to that point I hadn’t worried about getting them filled a month at a time but have now moved to the 3 month at a time refill. But end of August last year I ran into being a week short on one and ended up just paying for it myself since insurance was not going to cover the next month’s worth early. I am going to have to be more organized in the future.

So I am glad to know there is a work-around and glad to know about the timeframe for doing so. This is useful.

On some past thread, I also gleaned the tip about refilling a week early each time. But if I am getting three months at a time, it does cut down on that quite a bit. Right? And I am wondering about keeping my prescriptions at my local pharmacy that I love - versus shifting to the mail order system that sends automatically. I think all this leads me to keeping them local.

I only have 2 prescriptions and the pills are small (and important in the long term but not life threatening to do without short term). So when I am gone 2-3 weeks, I tend to just pop them all in one small bottle along with a couple of generic meds I might need (none look similar). But when I know I am going to need 4-8 weeks worth, I keep them in their original bottle. Mine don’t take up much space - but I know that varies wildly. And my vitamins get mixed up together in a ziplock for less space.

I am still 5 weeks away from leaving on a 5 week trip - but recently got my 3 months. I am now motivated to go ahead and separate those out for packing so when I get closer, I can see how I am doing on supply! (I am also ready to pack everything else….)

Posted by
17383 posts

Those of you who are filling a week early and at the end of the year getting your insurance company to pay for 57 weeks of medicine for a 52 week period have a more forgiving insurance carrier than I do; but thats great.

The State Department and the UK equivalent and the Turkish government (and presumably others) all say to use the original packaging of your medications so I would presume that is the safest bet (and the only legal be in some cases).

After that, it becomes how lucky do you feel?

I did it a 1000 times doesn't mean the guy that listened to you wont have an issue; but it's their risk tolerance (although where yoiu know a law to exist, you should follow it).

My pharmacy also prints the bottle labels on the receipt. I cut them out and put them in the the little pill ziplock bags on get on Amazon

I asked my doctor to write me a prescription for the syringes (dont really need a prescription to buy them on Amazon like i do), so if anyone questioned the paraphernalia I had something to show.

Posted by
3877 posts
  1. AMann, I can do 3 months from my pharmacy - so other than price (and mine aren’t expensive), there’s no real reason to go back & forth. Your situation is probably quite a bit different than mine.

  2. Mister E, you are absolutely right about the legal requirements to carry the prescriptions - and in their original container I have heard (but not looked up myself). So indeed - it is far wiser to do so. I will repent and change my ways. 🤣

  3. And as for the extra weeks? Hmmmm, I don’t know. I haven’t done it
    reliably yet, so my experience is worthless. But somehow I have
    wound up with at least a month’s extra of one and very few extra of
    the second. I guess I am unreliable there, also…..

Posted by
14470 posts

@ AMann.....It so happened that as this was happening on a Saturday, the pharmacy where I was buying my prescribed med happened to be out of stock until Monday morning..

Before I left the doc's office, the nurse/secretary gave me a piece of paper to sign, written in German, read it, signed it after paying her the cash, walked back to the pharmacist to give her the doc's prescription, obviously in German, and told her she would see me Monday morning. Monday morning I showed up at the time she had said, paid for the meds (don't remember if I did that with cash or a credit card). I did have enough pills to hold me over for four days before picking up the med.

Posted by
17383 posts

TexasTravelMom, since you asked ......... I'm on the three month (90 day actually) at the local HEB, but this time it hits in the middle of my trip and I know these guys, they aren't going to give me more than that works out to no matter when I pick them up.

If I pick up 2 weeks early then the next refill will be exactly 90 days from the date I should have picked them up (but they only let me get them a few days early anyway so what 5 extra pills over the course of a year and at death even those go into the Insurance equation).

I said what I read about packaging, etc; but then I said i do a bit different but thats on me if it goes bad and its not advice I would give anyone.

I worry a tad, not much, because one is not dispensed in the EU because of the side effects and I dont know if that is the same as being illegal to have in the EU but I doubt it ... still on me if something goes wrong because I never asked.

Life is never predictable, but still a bit more predictable (for me at least) when i follow the rules and the intent of the rules.

Posted by
3877 posts

Thanks, Mister E - and others. Good stuff to think about. And this afternoon I counted out and packed mine up for the end of Feb! In their original bottles. :)

I am going to concentrate on being exactly one week early to get my refills every three months this year and see what happens. One week is as early as I can get them.

acraven, this may be my favorite quote from all this: I'm not willing to pay hundreds of dollars out of pocket every year because some folks are math-challenged.

Posted by
95 posts

This is a concern for me too. I must take what is now considered (don’t get me started) a controlled substance that can’t be refilled until no earlier than 30 days from the last refill. My next trip is planned before I can get my scheduled refill. I can’t go without this med. IDK what I’m going to do except talk to my provider to see if we’re able inflate the dose so I’ll have enough for my trip. Luckily, I don’t leave until late May, so I have some time to figure it out. Very frustrating. I’m fighting a new-ish state law.

Posted by
205 posts

IDK what I’m going to do except talk to my provider to see if we’re
able inflate the dose so I’ll have enough for my trip.

I take a "controlled substance" that can only be refilled every 30 days. Fortunately the initial Rx was for 2X/day, but 1X/day works for me. Helps not having to drive to the Dr's office every month for a new Rx. We just don't tell the insurance co. although I'm sure they've figured it out.

So, if your Dr. is willing to prescribe 2X the dose and trusts you not to OD, and the insurance co. doesn't second-guess the Dr's Rx, ask for a double dose and cut the pills in half or get a 2X/day dose so you don't have to.

Good luck.