My Drug Center

Importing Prescription Drugs for Personal Use: All You Need to Know

Monday 29 January 2024
Canadian Pharmacy
6 minute(s) read

Table of Contents

I. Why Do People Import Prescription Drugs?

II. Legal Aspects of Importing Prescription Drugs

III. How to Safely Import Prescription Drugs

IV. Order Your Prescriptions from a Canadian Pharmacy

In an era where the digital world is now integrated into modern healthcare, the practice of importing prescription drugs for personal use is gaining significant traction. The reasons for going this route are convincing—it allows individuals to save money, enjoy greater convenience, and take control of their ordering options.

In this article, we’ll explore the process of importing prescription drugs from other countries, legal and safety considerations, and the best steps for finding a reputable pharmacy you can trust.

Quick Takeaways:

  • People import prescription drugs for personal use to access cost savings, better accessibility, and higher convenience.
  • The majority of Americans support allowing individuals to import drugs from other countries.
  • Importing drugs for personal use is legal, but must be done in compliance with FDA regulations.
  • Finding an established, certified, and reputable pharmacy is paramount.
  • Canadian pharmacies are a safe, affordable, and popular option for U.S. residents.

Why Do People Import Prescription Drugs?

In a world where people can use the internet to make filling prescriptions a self-service process, the practice of importing drugs for personal use has become more common. Research from the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) found that more than three-quarters of Americans support allowing drug importation, indicating that it will likely happen at a growing rate in the future. [1]

Bar chart showing that Americans support allowing citizens to import prescription drugs from Canada


There are a few compelling reasons why people choose to import their prescriptions, including:

1. Cost Savings

Perhaps the most significant factor driving the importation of prescription drugs is the potential for cost savings. This is particularly true in the United States, where prescription drugs cost more than anywhere else in the world.

Thanks to the ease of the internet, people can now go online to shop around for their medications, ordering them from reputable online pharmacies in Canada and other countries, where prescriptions are much more affordable.

2. Accessibility

Accessibility is another significant factor motivating people to import their prescription drugs. Some medications available in other countries may not be available in the United States. This is particularly true for generic drugs, which are often late to the market in the U.S. thanks to patent exclusivity.

As long as generic versions of drugs are FDA approved for safety, U.S. residents can import them from other countries like Canada to access their lower price point.

In some situations, drugs are sometimes imported for very rare or serious conditions even without FDA approval. However, this must be legally approved on a case-by-case basis.

3. Convenience

Importing prescription drugs for personal use comes with the added convenience of home delivery. For people who live in rural or remote areas, have hectic schedules, take medications for chronic conditions, or deal with mobility limitations, this benefit can be quite invaluable.

As mentioned, there are legal considerations to consider when you’re importing drugs for personal use, especially as it relates to FDA guidelines. The FDA has specific regulations governing the importation of drugs to keep individuals safe and avoid the importation of harmful or illegal substances into the United States.

Generally, it is illegal for individuals to import unapproved drugs or devices into the U.S. for personal use because they may not meet the FDA’s standards for safety, effectiveness, and quality. That’s why generic drugs not yet available on U.S. markets must still be approved for safety before importation.

A drug may be refused entry to the U.S. if it is adulterated, misbranded, or otherwise unapproved. For example, a drug may be considered misbranded if its label is false or misleading, lacks FDA-required information (see below), or if it is a prescription drug offered for sale without a prescription. The FDA examines and analyzes samples of imported drugs to ensure compliance with all regulations.

Graphic showing the FDA’s drug labeling requirements


For personal importation, the FDA generally allows the importation of a 90-day supply of a drug product under certain conditions. These include the drug being for personal use, not representing an unreasonable risk, and either being part of a treatment begun in a foreign country or being under the care of a U.S.-licensed doctor.

It's crucial to have a valid prescription from a licensed healthcare provider and to consult with them for guidance on the suitability and safety of the medication before importing it.

In short, while importing prescription drugs can offer benefits like cost savings and better accessibility, it's imperative to understand and adhere to the legal framework set by the FDA. Ensuring the legality and safety of imported medications requires careful consideration of FDA guidelines, legal restrictions, and the guidance of healthcare professionals.

How to Safely Import Prescription Drugs

Importing prescription drugs safely is crucial to ensure both legality and health safety. Here are key steps to consider:

1. Choose a Reputable Pharmacy

Begin by finding a reputable online pharmacy—one that’s established, transparent, and certified by all of the appropriate regulatory agencies. In Canada, for example, all online pharmacies are certified by CIPA and display the CIPA logo directly on their website. When you’re vetting potential Canadian pharmacies, you’ll know you can trust one by seeing that logo linked to their official certification.

2. Verify Drug Authenticity and Safety

Once a reputable source is identified, verify the authenticity and safety of the drugs. Be sure your medications are approved by the FDA or Health Canada and have a valid prescription from your doctor (pharmacies that do not ask for a prescription are likely disreputable).

3. Understand Customs and Importation Processes

Familiarize yourself with relevant customs and importation processes. This includes understanding the regulations regarding the importation of prescription drugs into your country and the documentation required, as well as the quantity limits. For instance, as mentioned above, the FDA generally allows the importation of a 90-day supply of a drug product for personal use under certain conditions.

4. Look for Transparent Sourcing

You should know where your prescription drugs are being sourced when you import them from another country. Reputable pharmacies will make that information available to you when you order. In the below image from My Drug Center, you can see manufacturers are displayed right on the ordering page.

Screenshot of drug manufacturer information displayed on My Drug Center’s website

5. Ensure Secure Transactions and Data Privacy

When you’re completing any transaction online, it’s important to know your data is secure. This is true especially when importing drugs for personal use because you’ll be sharing personal health information. Check that your pharmacy uses tactics like SSL encryption to secure your transactions.

Order Your Prescriptions from a Canadian Pharmacy

Canadian pharmacies have become the most popular source for American citizens importing prescription drugs for personal use—and for good reason. Canada is known for its affordable prices, strict safety and compliance standards, and drug quality. Plus, Canada is a direct neighbor geographically, and it does not require navigating a language barrier.

Americans ordering prescription drugs from Canada know they will reliably receive safe and affordable medications that are conveniently delivered right to their front door.

My Drug Center is a Canadian online pharmacy helping thousands of patients save up to 80% on their prescription medications every year. Learn more here about how to order your next prescription.

The information in the article is not meant to be used for treatment or diagnosis. It is designed for general awareness and for information purposes only. Always consult a medical professional for your specific healthcare needs.