Transferring your medication into more compact containers is one of the latest space-saving travel hacks being touted on TikTok.
One TikToker suggested using an empty Tic Tac container to store your medication in, saying: “It’s a lot smaller than the pill bottles.” They even recommended asking your pharmacist for an extra label to stick around it.
In theory, this might sound like a good idea, as it would allow travellers to maximise the space available when packing for their holiday. But experts are warning it could lead to serious problems – potentially resulting in people being unable to fly due to restrictions some countries may have when it comes to travelling with medication. There are additional safety concerns too.
Rules around travelling with medication
“While the smaller container might marginally take up less space in your luggage, most countries require to you keep your medication in its original packaging when travelling overseas,” said Steve Brownett-Gale, from pharmaceutical packaging firm Origin.
“Airport security may not be able to identify the medication if it is not in its original packaging or if the label is not clear or legible. This lack of identification could raise concerns and they may ask for additional information or documentation, delaying or even preventing you from boarding the flight.”
George Sandhu, deputy superintendent pharmacist at Well Pharmacy, agrees. “Be aware of restrictions regarding controlled drugs – you may be required to obtain an export licence prior to transporting set quantities (usually three months or more supply) into or out of the UK,” said Sandhu.
“Some examples of controlled drugs include diamorphine, diazepam, codeine, morphine and fentanyl. Customers should check with individual embassies or [check] Government advice on bringing medicine containing a controlled drug into the UK.
“For prescription medicines, a letter from healthcare practitioners may be helpful. Additionally, be aware of airline regulations regarding liquid medication.”
Removing medication from its packaging can potentially pose health risks too, particularly where child safety is concerned. Plus, the type of packaging is sometimes necessary for it to remain effective. Mitesh Desai, director at Landys Chemist, said: “In addition to the hassle of making it through the airport, you could also run the risk of diminishing the effectiveness of your medication by putting it into a different container.
“Medical packaging is designed to protect medication from interacting with elements such as light, heat, moisture, and air, which can degrade the potency of medicine over time. When you remove your medication’s original packaging, exposure to external elements can reduce the stability of the medication’s formulation and contribute to a potential loss of therapeutic benefits.”
And importantly, child safety concerns should not be ignored.
“Medical packaging often incorporates child-resistant features such as anti-twist child locks, to prevent accidental ingestion by curious young children, who may mistake medicine for a sweet treat,” Desai added. “When you remove medicine from its child-resistant packaging, you increase the risk of accidental poisoning or the ingestion of harmful substances by children.”
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