3 Tips for Buying Prescription Drugs From Canada

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As the cost of prescription drugs continues to skyrocket in the U.S., an increasing number of Americans are seeking more reasonably priced alternatives.

Such an alternative is to purchase medications from other countries. According to a poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), about eight percent of U.S. adults say that they or a member of their family have imported prescription drugs in order to save money.

Of the countries from which Americans can purchase medications, Canada is one of the most popular. That's because prescription drugs from Canada are both safe and inexpensive when purchased from a trustworthy source.

In fact, according to data from KFF, eight in ten Americans support allowing citizens to purchase drugs imported from licensed Canadian pharmacies.

However, there are three tips you should keep in mind when buying prescription drugs from the Great White North:

1.      Know what's legal and what's not.

2.     Only shop from legitimate sources.

3.     Don't be afraid to ask questions.

 Ahead, we'll discuss each of those tips in-depth.

1. Know What's Legal and What's Not

First, let's get one thing straight: Purchasing prescription drugs from Canada won't get you arrested, nor is it likely to result in any repercussions at all.

In an article from the Wall Street Journal on the topic, FDA senior executive William Hubbard said that "our highest enforcement priority would not be actions against consumers."

However, you should be aware that it's technically illegal to import prescription drugs from Canada.

As the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) states on its website, "in most circumstances, it is illegal for individuals to import drugs into the United States for personal use."

That being said, the FDA allows its agents to exercise discretion. In the agency's own guidelines, it states that "FDA personnel may allow entry of shipments when the quantity and purpose are clearly for personal use, and the product does not present an unreasonable risk to the user."

In the words of the Los Angeles Times, "even in the worst-case scenario, an unsympathetic agent might confiscate the drugs — but not arrest you."

Another legal footnote to keep in mind is that the FDA specifically prohibits the importation of more than a 90-day supply of any medication. 

So, as long as you are purchasing drugs for your own personal use and aren't buying more than a 90-day supply, you're unlikely to have any issues whatsoever.

2. Only Shop From Legitimate Sources

To protect you and your family's health and safety, it's absolutely essential that you do your research when purchasing medications from Canada. Disreputable sellers can easily blend in with legitimate ones.

While it's true that some politicians are advocating for the importation of prescription drugs from Canada, it remains imperative for shoppers like you to ensure that they're buying from trustworthy sources.

To make sure that the pharmacy or pharmacy referral service you're buying your medications from is legitimate, only do business with those that:

      Require a valid prescription in order to purchase prescription drugs.

      Don't allow you to purchase more than 90 days worth of any medication.

      Don't sell narcotics or controlled substances, even if you have a prescription.

      Only sell drugs approved by the FDA and/or Health Canada, Canada's FDA equivalent.

Of course, you may want to purchase non-FDA-approved drugs from Canada because they're not available in the U.S. but are necessary to treat a specific health condition.

For example, Motilium (domperidone), a drug that's used to reduce nausea, prevent vomiting and facilitate lactation, is sold and widely prescribed in Canada but is not available in the U.S.

In such a case, the FDA specifies that the drug in question should:

      Be for a serious condition for which effective treatment is not available in the U.S.

      Not be commercialized or promoted to U.S. residents.

      Not be considered to represent an unreasonable risk.

If you do choose to import non-FDA-approved drugs, you should also be prepared to provide a written statement to the FDA.

And, if you're purchasing medications from a pharmacy referral service like MyDrugCenter rather than an individual pharmacy, make sure that it only sources drugs from licensed pharmacies and approved suppliers.

Finally, if you're having trouble determining if an individual Canadian online pharmacy is trustworthy (not necessarily a pharmacy referral service), you can also check to see if they're verified by Canadian International Pharmacy Association (CIPA).

3. Don't Be Afraid to Ask Questions

When purchasing prescription drugs from an online pharmacy or pharmacy referral service, don't hesitate to ask questions as soon as they arise. 

Remember, there's no shortage of illegitimate online pharmacies, and the best way to protect yourself is to educate yourself. If it's not clear which country a drug was manufactured in, whether it's generic or brand-name or whether it requires a prescription, just ask.

In fact, you should refrain from doing business with any online pharmacy that doesn't have representatives readily available to address your questions and concerns.

In summary, although most Americans support allowing citizens to import drugs from Canada, it may be years before such legislation is implemented, if at all. In the meantime, though, U.S. residents can still cut costs by purchasing their medications from reputable online sources.


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