Emerging trends in international medication tourism

Document Type : Letter to Editor


1 School of Pharmacology and Therapeutics, University of Galway, Galway, Ireland

2 School of Medicine, University of Galway, Galway, Ireland



Medication tourism carries inherent risks, since there is often no guarantee that the medications purchased overseas are safe or efficacious. Additionally, the medication tourist may encounter legal difficulties associated with importing certain medications into their home country. A World Health Organization report found that up to half of the global drug market consists of counterfeit medication, with a high proportion of these drugs being sold throughout the developing world. As a result of prohibitive costs and low domestic availability of medicines, patients in developing countries have an increased likelihood of purchasing these cheaper alternatives. Travellers with chronic medical illnesses may be unaware of the risks associated with medication tourism. As part of the pre-travel consultation, they should be discouraged from engaging in medication tourism where possible. Otherwise, they should be advised to only purchase their medications from a reputable pharmacy abroad, to present a copy of their prescription to a registered local pharmacist, to check for any legal restrictions on transporting given quantities of certain medications for personal use across international borders, to keep medications in their original, labelled containers, and to store them according to the manufacturer’s instructions.