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How to travel with GLP-1 medications


Traveling can be a rewarding experience, but for those on GLP-1 medications like semaglutide and tirzepatide, it presents unique challenges. In this post, we'll explore everything you need to know about traveling with these medications.

What are GLP-1 and GIP medications?

Glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) and glucose-dependent insulinotropic polypeptide (GIP) receptor agonists form classes of medicines that can help treat conditions such as type 2 diabetes and obesity. There are several different drugs within the GLP-1 class, including liraglutide, semaglutide, and dulaglutide. Tirzepatide is both a GLP-1 and GIP receptor co-agonist. You can learn more about GLP-1 medications in this blog post

GLP-1 medications such as semaglutide and tirzepatide are typically administered in two ways: through subcutaneous injections or as oral pills. For the purposes of this post, we will focus on the subcutaneous injection method, as it poses unique challenges when traveling.

What precautions are necessary when storing GLP-1 medications?

Storing GLP-1 medications correctly is crucial for maintaining their effectiveness. These medications require refrigeration to preserve their active ingredients and ensure their efficacy over time.

Despite the need for refrigeration, there are occasions when these medications will be out of a temperature-controlled environment for short periods. According to a study conducted by one of our pharmacy partners, your vial of medication is safe for up to 3 days at a temperature as high as 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Additionally, it can remain effective for a period of 1 week at room temperature. However, to ensure maximum efficacy, we strongly advise refrigerating the vial as soon as you have the opportunity, and using an insulated bag and cold packs to help to keep the medicine within the correct temperature range when refrigeration isn’t available.

Road Trip Storage Tips for GLP-1 Medications

When traveling by car, store your medication in an insulated bag, using cooling packs in warm weather. When using cooling packs in your insulated bag, position them carefully to avoid direct contact with the medication. This precaution prevents the medication from freezing, which is as harmful as overheating. It's also important to keep the medication out of direct sunlight, as this can affect its efficacy. 

During your journey, if you have overnight stops, use this opportunity to refrigerate your medication at your accommodation. For those planning longer journeys or traveling through areas with extreme temperatures, consider a portable mini-fridge that connects to your car charger. This investment can offer convenience and assurance, keeping your medication at the right temperature throughout your trip.

Traveling by Train with GLP-1 Medications

When it comes to train travel, carrying GLP-1 medications like semaglutide and tirzepatide is straightforward but requires some planning. Most train services, such as Amtrak, require you to be capable of self-administering your medication. Avoid placing medicines in checked baggage to ensure they're always accessible. Like road trips, maintaining the right temperature is key, so use insulated bags with cooling pads as needed. Amtrak provides ice for medication coolers and allows passengers to travel with dry ice providing it meets certain packing conditions. If you're unsure about specific train company policies or need assistance, it's best to contact them before your journey.

Flying with GLP-1 Medications

You are allowed to travel with personal medications, including semaglutide or tirzepatide, on planes. Make sure to keep your medication in its original packaging and bring a copy of your prescription.

When traveling with any medicine, it’s important to keep it in your hand luggage and not your checked bags. This reduces the risk of medication getting lost, and also ensures it’s kept in a temperature-controlled environment.

The current TSA guidelines for traveling with unused syringes and other injectable medications request that passengers declare those items for inspection at security checkpoints. They may be scanned separately, and agents may ask to see your prescription for your medication.

Crossing State Lines and International Travel

There's good news for those wanting to travel with GLP-1 medications across state lines or internationally. These medications, including semaglutide and tirzepatide, are not controlled substances, and they are not prohibited in any state. That means it’s perfectly legal to travel with your medication from one state to another. As best practice, always keep prescription medicines in their original packaging.

When it comes to international travel, most countries allow the short-term import of prescription medications. However, it's crucial to check the specific regulations of the country you're visiting, including any transit countries during layovers.

What happens if I travel to another time zone with my medicine?

When traveling across time zones with once-a-week GLP-1 medications like semaglutide and tirzepatide, a few hours' difference in your dosing schedule due to a time zone change is usually not significant. The key is to maintain consistency in the day of the week you take your medication. For instance, if you usually administer your dose on a Monday, continue to do so in your new time zone. This approach ensures a regular interval between doses, keeping your treatment on track even as you cross time zones. However, if you have concerns or your travel schedule makes this challenging, consulting with your doctor for personalized advice is always a good idea.

Can I skip GLP-1 medications on vacation?

While the idea of taking a break from regular medication during vacation might be tempting, it's generally not advisable. Pausing GLP-1 medications can lead to the return of symptoms or conditions they're prescribed to manage. Before pausing any medication, you should talk to your doctor to understand the impact it may have. There are ways to stop taking GLP-1 medicines safely, but these typically are used when weaning off the medicine completely, not for short term breaks.

Final thoughts

Traveling with GLP-1 medications doesn't have to be daunting. Here are some essential tips to keep in mind:

  • Temperature Control: Always use insulated bags for your medication, particularly during long journeys. 

  • Accessibility: Carry your medication and prescription in your hand luggage when flying or traveling by train, and avoid checking them in. This ensures they are within reach and maintained at a consistent temperature.

  • Legal Considerations: Traveling across state lines and internationally with these medications is generally permissible, but always check the regulations of your destination.

By understanding these nuances, you can ensure a seamless journey while effectively managing your health. Always consult with your healthcare provider for personalized advice and guidelines tailored to your specific needs. Safe travels!

The information in this blog post is intended for educational purposes only and is meant to offer general guidance and information. It does NOT offer medical advice or medical treatment, does NOT constitute the practice of medicine, and should NOT be used as a replacement for licensed medical instruction.
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