Those who frequently travel overseas more than likely have purchased or will at some point have the need to purchase medication while abroad. There are multiple reasons one might purchase drugs while traveling. Whether due to forgetting daily prescription drugs or becoming ill while traveling, the probability of buying drugs abroad has greatly increased, and with it multiple risks have surfaced. Every country, and sometimes even individual pharmacies, operates in a different manner.  Due to these differing standards and protocols one must be aware of potential hazards such as receiving the wrong, counterfeit or even contaminated medication.
The first preventative measure to take is to refill prescriptions before leaving on a trip and to bring extra medication in case of sickness. This will elevate many of the problems you might otherwise face. Sometimes, however, despite all precautions things go amiss. Lost luggage or illnesses caught en route can quickly put you in a predicament while visiting a foreign country.
General guidelines for purchasing medications while abroad:
  •          Brand names vary – know the generic name to ensure receiving the right medication. Similar sounding drugs such as “Ambien” and “Ambyen” treat completely different health problems and could be dangerous if mistakenly taken.
  •          Dosage matters – make sure the medication you buy is the same dosage you are used to taking.
  •          Active ingredients mean everything – double check that the active ingredients are the same as what you have taken and in the same proportions.
  •          Doctors are the best resource – go see a local doctor if you are unable to purchase your medication or need a physician’s help. Also, make sure to have your physician’s contact information on hand in case of an emergency.

Preparing beforehand alleviates many common pitfalls and helps you avoid purchasing the wrong medication. Unfortunately, purchasing incorrect medicine is not the only risk; counterfeit and contaminated medicines pose just as much, if not more, of a hazard when seeking prescription drugs abroad.
Counterfeiting prescription drugs has been on the rise since the early 2000’s and are thought to make up between 1-30% of the total medication sold in some countries. Some may think that purchasing counterfeit pills simply wastes money on buying fake medication, when in fact it means much more. It’s true that counterfeit pills many times are just highly diluted versions of the true medication making them ineffective for treatment. Often though, the ingredients applied to stretch the counterfeit batches are actually harmful ingredients that could lead to severe side effects or death in extreme cases. Though without contamination and product analysis it is impossible to be completely sure of what you have purchased there are guidelines that you can follow to enact your due diligence and have more confidence in your purchases. (Note: These guidelines apply to all medication your purchases whether at home or abroad.)

Ways to check medication for counterfeiting:
  •          Branding makes the product – most brands have unique packaging for marketing purposes, verify the packaging as a first defense against counterfeit medication.
  •          Packaging with purpose – verify that the packaging has not been tampered with in any way and if it has do not buy the product.
  •          Taste, touch, and sight – your senses are some of your best defense systems against counterfeiting. Check if the medication itself is the right shape, color, and taste that you are accustomed to. If it seems like something is off, it is not worth the risk.
  •          Source – refer to the manufacture’s information to see if it corresponds to the manufacture listed on your common medication.

With these pointers remember when traveling to plan ahead, fill prescriptions before you leave, and thoroughly check any medication bought overseas. If you believe that any medication you purchased could be counterfeit, alert the FDA by call the Medwatch program at 1-800-332-1088. For litigation services involving counterfeit or contaminated medication have your legal representative contact Avomeen for contamination analysis and other litigation services.