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February 24, 2001

Traveling

Question from Wyoming, USA:

I am 27 years old and take insulin. As a inconvenience of my career as a road musician, I am forced to keep track of the prescription laws of the many states I travel in. I am currently in New Mexico and was refused not only syringes but insulin at a national drug store chain, and was told that their policy nationwide was to refuse insulin without a prescription. I do not use Humalog, so I was really upset. Is this legal? To the best of my knowledge, syringes and non-Humalog insulin are over-the-counter items in New Mexico. As it happens, I will be in Flagstaff next week, and I have just enough supplies to get me through.

Answer:

US medications are governed by state laws and they are not uniform. I would suggest that you carry enough supplies and probably have your physician give you several sets of prescriptions for insulin, syringes, glucagon, and any other supplies you might need, or that are reimbursable by your insurance company. An alternative would be to develop a relationship with a mail order pharmacy that you could call when you are running low and have them mailed to your next tour address.

SB
Additional comments from Dr. Jim Lane:

As you stated, the laws vary, depending upon which state you are in. However, individual drug stores are at liberty to set more stringent policies. Just as you have found out, they will often not sell without the prescription. You need to have a physician you can call so that a prescription could be called in, and I believe this would relieve the problem.

If you want to change the system, I would recommend joining forces with the American Diabetes Association public advocacy group which lobbies state and federal government regarding legal issues and diabetes.

JTL

[Editor’s comment: Along with the above advice, I’d like to suggest an addition: a letter from your physician, on the office’s letterhead, explaining your situation, including your medications, brand of meter, and what-not. I have written many such letters for patients going through Customs, and might imagine it might help in your circumstance. See Your Traveling Medical Record, at the Diabetes Monitor, for some additional thoughts.

WWQ]