Travel Services: An Emerging Market for Pharmacists

DECEMBER 01, 2008
Eileen Koutnik-Fotopoulos, Staff Writer

International travel is common today, but many travelers are often ill-prepared in terms of travel vaccines and travel-related health information. This provides a golden opportunity for pharmacists to provide travel medicine services.

The growing trend in walk-in clinics is exposing the public to more interaction with their pharmacist. In states where permitted, pharmacists can administer immunizations that may include some travel vaccines. Furthermore, pharmacists can offer other guidance to travelers.

Data from the US Department of Commerce, International Trade Administration, Manufacturing Services, Office of Travel and Tourism Industries, indicated that 64.1 million US residents traveled abroad in 2007. The most traveled to destinations include:

  • Mexico (19,453,000
  • Asia (6,714,000)
  • Caribbean (5,184,000)
  • South America (2,811,000)
  • Central America (2,248,000)
  • Eastern Europe (1,343,000)
  • Middle East (1,312,000)
  • Africa (874,000)

Tourism is only one of the reasons for international travel. More people are traveling to foreign destinations for work-related business, study abroad programs for college students, adoptions, and religious groups sponsoring mission trips.

CDC Travel Recommendations

Pharmacists need to make sure they are familiar with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) recommendations for immunizations to counsel patients properly regarding necessary vaccines. Pharmacists also should make sure those traveling are up-to-date on routine vaccines. The CDC divides vaccine for travel into 3 categories: routine, recommended, and required. Routine vaccines include influenza, measles, mumps, and rubella, and diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus.

Web Sites for Travel-Related Services
Recommended vaccines depend on certain factors, such as destination, age, health status, and previous immunizations. The vaccines include hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and polio. The International Health Regulations currently only require 2 vaccines for travel to specific parts of the world. The vaccine against yellow fever is required for travel to certain countries in sub-Saharan Africa and tropical South America. The meningococcal vaccination is required by the government of Saudi Arabia for annual travel during the period of the Hajj. Other vaccines are required for travel to certain countries, such as those against typhoid fever, rabies, cholera, and Japanese encephalitis.

Patient counseling is a critical part of travel medicine services to reduce the risk of travel-related injury and disease. Pharmacists should obtain information related to the patient's health status, medical conditions, and medications, as well as specific information about the patient's destination. Pharmacists also can advise patients on how to deal with jet lag, venous thromboembolism, motion sickness, and traveler's diarrhea.

Counseling Opportunities

Travel medicine services are a revenue booster for pharmacies. During pharmacist?patient counseling, pharmacists are in a unique position to recommend health-related OTC products. These products include sunscreen, insect repellent, hand cleansers, motion sickness treatment, and topical nasal sprays.

Pharmacists' training, skills, and knowledge afford them opportunities to expand their services. The integration of travel medicine into community pharmacies may increase access for patients who might not otherwise have sought care before embarking on foreign travel.