Is It Legal to Buy Prescription Drugs from Canada?


Many Americans save money by getting their prescription drugs from Canada, whose government regulates prices. Initially, many people who bought their prescriptions from Canada took organized bus trips to the country for the purpose. Nowadays, more people order their medicine from safe and licensed Canadian pharmacies.

There’s no question that Americans save a lot of money by ordering their medicines from Canadian pharmacies. In some cases, drugs from Canada cost as little as one-fifth the price found inside America. However, some wonder if this might be too good to be legal. So is it really legal to buy prescription drugs from Canada? The answer isn’t so simple, but the activity is tolerated. Below is more information on the subject.

Tolerance of Non-Controlled Medications

The Prescription Drug Marketing Act of 1987 made it illegal for anyone besides manufacturers to take prescription drugs into the U.S. However, officials have since begun to allow patients to bring prescription drugs into the country as long as they aren’t controlled substances. Personal use is what is tolerated, so officials allow only a three-month supply to be carried in, according to the director of pharmacy affairs at the FDA. The same holds true for online orders, with three-month supplies being tolerated.

More About Online Orders

Some patients still have questions about the legality of ordering prescription drugs online. After all, the law says that ordering drugs from foreign pharmacies is illegal. However, the government tolerates the activity with up to three-month supplies of drugs that aren’t controlled and are intended for personal use only.

This isn’t to say that shipments are never confiscated by U.S. customs officials. One Canadian online pharmacy said that out of the 1,500 prescription medicines it ships to the U.S. every day, only about one percent are confiscated at the border. When this happens, the company just resends the shipment at no extra cost to the customer.

Realism from the FDA

In 2000, Congress tried to reduce the confusion regarding online medicine purchases when it passed the Medicine Equity and Drug Safety Act, which made it legal for American consumers to buy prescription drugs from certain other countries. Unfortunately, the act hasn’t been instituted due to concerns from the Secretary of Health, who says that the health of Americans would be put at risk by the ability to order medicines from other countries.

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At the same time, the FDA is realistic on the matter. One official said that although the agency recommends against patients ordering drugs from other countries, consumers are more likely to receive safe medicines from a licensed online pharmacy compared to Mexico or Thailand. This is because in those countries, testing and regulations are lacking compared to the systems set up in the U.S. and Canada, which are similar to each other.

Recommendations for Buying Medicines from Canada

Americans can better ensure that they will be satisfied and safe when ordering prescription drugs from Canadian pharmacies by dealing only with pharmacies that are licensed and reputable. It’s best to call and talk with the pharmacist who handles the prescriptions to find out where the pharmacy gets its medicines, get a copy of the facility’s license and confirm how the pharmacy ensures delivery of its shipments.

Is it legal to buy prescription drugs from Canada?

Although it may technically not be, consumers don’t need to worry about ordering personal amounts of drugs that aren’t controlled. For more information, consumers can visit the following links: and, which cover the FDA Import Program and the agency’s regulations for dealing with the subject, respectively. To find affordable medications for the best prices through comparison shopping, consumers should visit

About Cary Byrd

eDrugSearch founder, Cary Byrd, has been called an “e-health innovator” by MarketIntellNow, interviewed by top pharmaceutical industry journalists, invited to Matthew Holt’s Health 2.0 Conference and a Consumer Report's health summit, and highlighted on numerous health blogs.

Is It Legal to Buy Prescription Drugs from Canada?

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