U.S. Patients Seeking Medications from Canada

August 5, 2011

U.S. Federal Policy

As a general matter, it is illegal to import an unapproved drug into the U.S. However, under Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) personal importation policy, FDA has authorized its inspectors to use their enforcement discretion to allow U.S. residents to import certain products under certain limited conditions. Under this policy, FDA may allow a U.S. resident to bring into the U.S. an unapproved drug for their personal use for a serious condition, if there has been no commercialization or promotion of the drug to U.S. residents.1

A patient seeking to import such a product must provide the name of the licensed physician in the U.S. responsible for his or her treatment with the unapproved drug product. See FDA Regulatory Procedures Manual, Chapter 9, Subchapter: Coverage of Personal Importations.2

Canadian Policy

It is illegal for pharmacies in Canada to fill prescriptions unless ordered by Canadian-licensed prescribers. The co-signing or approval of U.S. prescriptions by Canadian physicians does not generally meet the standards of care for practitioners in Canada.3

How to Buy Drugs Online Safely

There is a program that certifies online drug stores to be legal and honest. It is called the VIPPS (Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Site). Websites may choose to apply or not to apply for VIPPS certification. Canadian pharmacies that ship prescription medications to the U.S. in contravention to federal and state laws are not eligible for Canadian VIPPS certification. Before using a website, see if it is VIPPS certified.4

Find a VIPPS

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