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Suppose person A wants to take medication on a plane. He is traveling with person B who person A doesn't want to know that he is taking medication.

Would TSA agents remove the prescription bottles of pills to check them? Note that this is a flight in America.

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    I don't think this is answerable beyond "Maybe, or maybe not." Inspector A might do so on one day, but not on another...or you might get Inspector B, who might do it at night but not during the day...or you might get Inspector C, who only does it when the traveler is wearing a blue shirt or it's the full moon. Etc. etc. Jun 24 at 23:11
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    Would checking Person A’s luggage be an option? Jun 25 at 1:31
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    It's generally inadvisable to check medication, because of the risk the baggage may be lost or delayed. It may be worth considering if a medical professional has truly reassured you that the medication is so inessential that you can do without it for a while without any harm if it's lost (and I guess if it's not a kind of medication that could be prone to theft), but it's usually not a good idea. Jun 25 at 2:19
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    I've flown with 5-6 prescription medicines + 2-3 OTC medicines in my backpack and never had them pulled out, even when my backpack is searched (because of something like an empty water bottle). Put it/them in a quart baggie so they're easier for TSA to handle is necessary.
    – mkennedy
    Jun 25 at 21:05
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    Make the other person go through security first. If you get pulled over for a search, they should be through security and less likely to be able to see what's happening.
    – mkennedy
    Jun 25 at 21:05
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As a general rule, TSA will have no interest at all in your pills. You will be able to leave them in your bag, and they will not be interested in seeing them let alone knowing what they are.

The two exceptions to this would likely be :

  1. If you had an excessive number of pills. In this case they may see that on the X-ray and may be interesting in checking what they are to confirm that they are not some form of illegal drugs.
  2. If you gave them some other reason to search your bag, such as if they saw a sharp item (eg, knife), liquids, or other disallowed item on the X-ray. In this case their interest would still not be in the medication, but they may remove the medication whilst searching through the bag looking for whatever else they saw.

So as long as you don't give them a reason to look in your bag, it's almost certain the companion will not have any chance to see the pills.

(Note that the answer would be different if the medication was a liquid, as that would fall under the standard liquid rules which would, at a minimum, generally require the items to be removed from your bag and placed through the X-ray separately from your other items)

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  • Otherwise +1, but "medically necessary" liquids in "reasonable" quantities are exempt from the standard liquid rules. As you state they do have to be declared though. tsa.gov/travel/security-screening/whatcanibring/items/… Jun 25 at 4:06
  • Also, the TSA states that they "do not search for marijuana or other illegal drugs", although any illegal drugs found may be referred to the police. tsa.gov/travel/security-screening/whatcanibring/items/… Jun 25 at 4:09
  • @lambshaanxy I suppose that something that looks like it might be illegal drugs on the x-ray screen would therefore prompt a manual inspection, don't you think? Doc: it might also be worthwhile to suggest that the pills be put in an inner pocket or a small bag, so that if the traveler does inadvertently include something that sparks the screeners' interest, they're likely to find the interesting thing before the medicines are exposed to the companion's view.
    – phoog
    Jun 25 at 8:15
  • @phoog As linked above, the TSA claims that would not. That said, I gather there are quite a few cases of the TSA "accidentally" finding drugs and using civil forfeiture to confiscate large amounts of cash along with them. Jun 25 at 9:16
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    @lambshaanxy Exactly. The "standard liquid rules" that require all liquids to be removed from your bags, and allows certain types of liquids to be allowed through the checkpoint after inspection by the TSA (and thus likely seen by the OP's companion).
    – Doc
    Jun 25 at 13:52

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