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Shipping Medication from USA to Portugal

Hi All,

My girlfriend and I are headed out to Lisbon on Tuesday. We will be in Portugal for six weeks. Now, she only has about a months supply. Her medications are for mental health but none are narcotic or scheduled. Long story short, due to delays with insurance her 90 day supply she planned on bringing with her might not get here before we leave. Our thinking was that she can have someone ship it to her in Portugal? Is this legal/possible? Or is it cheaper and better just to go to a doctor in Portugal and get a prescription? If anyone has ANY experience with this kind of thing, and specifically in Portugal please let me know. I've been getting lost in the bureaucracy and can't come up with a straight answer about anything. Any help would be much appreciated. Thank you!

Posted by
8889 posts

Our thinking was that she can have someone ship it to her in Portugal? Is this legal/possible?

Legal - yes. Possible, I can think of two ways this could fail.
1) The package would need a green customs declaration. If this is missing, or Portuguese customs get suspicious, they could impound and / or charge import duty, which would have to get paid before they would release it.
2) How long does package post take? Are you staying in one place for the whole 6 weeks? What if it misses you?

Or is it cheaper and better just to go to a doctor in Portugal and get a prescription?

Cheaper, possibly. You would need to convince a Portuguese doctor, a letter from your doctor explaining might help. And you would have to pay the doctor, and for the medicines, in cash. Would you be able to reclaim this?

I don't like either plan. Both risky, as this is presumably necessary medicines.
Is there no way you could buy in advance paying cash, and reclaim the cost after you return?

Posted by
8 posts

In terms of the green customs sticker, isn't there just a way we can declare it and make sure that it's on it? We are staying in Lisbon for two weeks, Nazare for a few days, Coimbra for a week and Porto for two weeks, so timing isn't a huge issue as long as it is shipped on the right day. She is going to call the embassy tomorrow so I'm sure she can get more information on how to ship the meds properly. Apparently you can have the UPS/Fed Ex/or post office hold the package for you there and pick it up.

In terms of a doctor, I guess she could bring a note and some prescriptions as verification. I have no idea what medical costs are like in Portugal. Expensive may be relative to where you're from. As you may or may not know, medical expenses in the USA are ridiculously expensive, so it might not be that bad for us to just pay for the services. We couldn't reclaim that money though.

I'm not a huge fan of either plan either but it might be all we can do. The medicine that is coming in mail was our advance. But it's just gotten delayed due to unforeseen circumstances.

Posted by
17145 posts

I sympathize, because it took 4 or 5 phone calls adding up to more than 4 hours on the phone to get my insurance company to authorize a 140-day supply of a bunch of (very cheap) maintenance meds I take. In the end it worked out.

I have no experience with the Portuguese medical system, and I don't know whether mental-health drugs might be tricky, but this was my recent experience in Lyon when I woke up with a scary-red left eye to go along with the cough and slight sore throat I had had for more than a week:

It was (naturally) Sunday, so off I went to the pharmacy open that day. The pharmacist noted that I might need an antibiotic (not dispensed without a prescription), but sold me a box of ampules of eyewash, some non-antibiotic eyedrops, an expectorant for the cough, and some throat lozenges I asked for. The total cost was under 20€; it may have been less than 15€.

The eye was no better the next morning, so I made a same-day appointment with an English-speaking doctor recommended by the pharmacist. She spent at least 15 minutes with me, checking throat, ears and lungs as well as the eye. She also asked a few medical-history questions pertinent to my complaints (asthma? allergies? smoking?) She gave me several prescriptions. Her fee: 25€.

Back to the pharmacy I went, where I purchased the prescribed antibiotic eye ointment, oral antibiotics, probiotics and anti-nausea prescription meds (which I requested in case the antibiotic caused problems). Total cost: 34.58€ .

I suggest you try Googling to see whether you can find the cost of the drugs in Portugal. If it's low, that will relieve your mind to some degree. Then you can work on trying to find out ahead of time whether a GP will be able to prescribe the necessary medication.

Posted by
8 posts

Oh my god that's so cheap! It helps to hear that from another American since we don't have any sort of EU benefits. I'm sure it won't be difficult if the situation is explained along with a note or at the very least the bottles of medicine. Sometimes when you're going to a new place it can be easy to forget you aren't going to mars, there will still be ways to get help. Especially since I'll be in Portugal, not the middle of nowhere. Thanks for the information. It's greatly appreciated.

ps: couldn't find much on drug prices but in neighboring Spain and France it would seem everything is relatively cheap.

Posted by
1767 posts

What are the risks to your girlfriend’s health if she doesn’t get the medication in Portugal?

It’s not the cost of paying for medication, but there’s no guarantee a Portuguese doctor would issue a prescription just on the say so of a US prescription. A new doctor would only issue a prescription after an examination. As for mailing a supply, that has pitfalls as well.

What I’m saying is you need to think this through before travelling. If the medication is vital then the safest recourse is to either take a sufficient supply or change your travel plans, and not rely on getting the medication in Portugal.

Posted by
8 posts

@ramblin on

I mean this sincerely, thank you for that bit of a reality check. It launched me into a bit more research and I've since discovered on the embassy website that it is illegal to ship medication into Portugal. As a result my girlfriend and I have come up with a plan to get her medication before we leave. Luckily, her meds have been around for decades and have cheap generics, so we're going to pay out of pocket along with some coupons tomorrow. We'd both definitely rather shell out a bit more money to at least make sure she will be okay abroad. It is not a desirable plan to try and have her see a doctor over there. Even though it could very well work, we're going to Portugal to have a good time and de-stress. Not be stressed about medical problems! Anyway thank you!

Posted by
11181 posts

" Luckily, her meds have been around for decades and have cheap generics, so we're going to pay out of pocket along with some coupons tomorrow."

If you're not using insurance for the medication, you can use the GoodRx program. Go to their website or download the app, and you will get a coupon to use for a discount, as well as finding out which pharmacies near you have the best prices for the medication. It's very variable: sometimes you only save $1, but sometimes you get 2/3 off! https://www.goodrx.com/

Posted by
23967 posts

be sure to put all these items in your in-cabin carry-on, not in checked luggage.

Posted by
315 posts

Pharmacy insurance benefits have an over-ride vacation option if requested. The pharmacy can call for you.

Posted by
8293 posts

The OP and his girlfriend went to Portugal in June. No word on how the med problem was resolved.

Posted by
8 posts

To Norma,

Completely forgot about this post but I figured I would reply because I always hate when no one ever shares what happened and/or their resolution!

So basically what ended up happening was as seen above I took the reality check offered by another poster and we got her meds last minute. It turns out as stated on the Portuguese embassy's website, that it is in fact ILLEGAL to ship any kind of medication to Portugal from outside and it WILL be impounded at customs. It was kind of a scramble but she managed to get her meds the day before departure, and had to pay out of pocket due because it wasn't planned accordingly. Luckily it wasn't too pricey because they were generics. Learn from our mistakes and never assume you can mail this stuff overseas (you probably can't) or count on getting it abroad unless you have experience doing so. It's a level of pre departure stress I literally never want to repeat ever ever again.

Posted by
8293 posts

Thank you for telling us how the drama ended. Hope you had a good time in Portugal.