I am traveling to USA on a tourist visa from India . This is my first trip to USA . My friend in USA has requested me to get insulin pen for her from India and asked me to keep it in hand luggage so that the insulin pens can be kept in fridge in the flight.

Can i carry these insulin pends with me for others/visitors in USA. Please confirm if this will not be an issue for me during security or customs check.

Also do i need to take any additional documents with me. I don't have the original prescription with me so do you recommend keeping them in checkin luggage as opposed to hand luggage to avoid any issues.

Thanks in advance.

  • To carry in hand baggage, the American diabetes association has an interesting page. However, this page has been written for insulin and not necessarily for an insulin pen.
    – dearN
    Feb 19, 2015 at 13:04
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    Are you talking about an insulin pen (that is the device used to administrate insulin) or about insulin as a medication? Feb 19, 2015 at 19:17
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    Most airplanes don't actually have refrigerators per se; this is a common misconception. Some have an air chiller, but others keep food and drinks cold using dry ice. If you put your insulin in dry ice it might freeze; I'm not sure if that's a problem. I'd recommend checking with the airline in advance to see what they can offer to do for you, and then decide if it will work. Feb 20, 2015 at 5:24
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    @phoog: Your question is similar to: Don't syringes contain medication? Not necessarily. Insulin pens are usually reusable devices, which administer insulin from a replaceable cartridge. There are most likely different restrictions (security and customs related) on the pen itself and the cartridges with the medication. Feb 20, 2015 at 10:02
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    @Tor-EinarJarnbjo I certainly wondered about the syringe analogy. Since the question of refrigiration came up, though, I suppose either the pens in question are prefilled, or the question uses "pen" to mean "pen and cartridges." In fact, the NovoMix 30 FlexPen is a pre-filled pen: medicines.org.uk/EMC/medicine/8591/SPC/…
    – phoog
    Feb 20, 2015 at 20:28

1 Answer 1


Strictly speaking, you can only carry in medication that is for your own personal use -- otherwise, you are importing the medicine and this would cause all sorts of problems.

While in reality, if it's not a controlled or scheduled substance and the quantity that you are taking in would be reasonable for personal use, the custom's agent won't normally flag it but if caught you would be technically in violation and it would be within his rights to confiscate the medicine, fine you, or bar you from entry into the USA:

Note: relying on the internet for advice for behavior that can get you deported is dangerous. We could tell you that it was ok, that you wouldn't get caught, that customs has bigger fish to fry, but you're the one whose status would be in jeopardy.

Keeping it cold: Note that the airplane will not let you use their onboard cold storage units for liability reasons (you could contaminate the food or vice versa). You should use a small cooler box with ice or ice-packs (blue-gel, etc.) to keep the insulin cold. You can ask the flight staff for more ice during the flight, which they may or may not give you.

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    Actually with some medicine that needs to be used on board during long haul flights some airlines will insist you keep it in their cold storage, specially if it includes needles etc, this happens frequently with my dad who has Diabetes and needs to take injections during long haul flights, Singapore Airlines and United both did that for him the last few years Jan 8, 2020 at 5:28

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