If you’ve traveled abroad for a medical procedure, your surgeon may prescribe you medication that you want to bring back into the United States. The FDA has rules in place regarding traveling to the US with medication, since medication purchased abroad may not be approved for use and sales in the US. Before you leave for your trip, familiarize yourself with the regulations and preparing accordingly to save yourself the hassle at customs.
Let’s break down what you need to know.
What precautions should I take?
- Have a valid prescription or doctor’s note with you, written in English.
- Keep the medicine in its original container with your doctor’s instructions printed on the bottle.
- If you don’t have the original container, have your doctor give you a letter explaining why you need the medication.
- Don’t bring more than a 3-month supply with you. If you need more than that, consider having your prescriptions mailed to you.
Can I have medications from abroad mailed to me?
The short answer is yes.
Technically, it IS illegal to import drugs into the US for personal use. However, there is some gray area when it comes to enforcement.
According to an article from Stat News, tens of millions of Americans buy prescriptions abroad and have them shipped to the US.
Reasons for doing so include:
- Having a procedure done overseas
- Medication not being available in the US
- Significant cost savings from buying medication overseas
CNBC reported that “despite the practice being illegal, the FDA does not tend to prosecute people who import drugs for personal use, particularly for amounts that equal only a few months supply.”
In fact, the FDA itself declares its enforcement is mostly focused around drugs imported for commercial use, fraudulent drugs and drugs with high risk.
Their policy typically does not object to personal imports of drugs under certain circumstances, including:
- The drug is for a serious condition and effective treatment is not available in the US.
- There is no commercialization or promotion of the drug.
- The drug is not unreasonably high risk.
- The individual verifies in writing the drug is for personal use only.
- The individual provides contact information for the doctor providing treatment.
- The individual shows the product is for the continuation of treatment begun in a foreign country.
- Not more than a 3-month supply of the drug is imported.
In general, following the above tips should help you avoid confiscation when you are coming back to the US from your medical trip abroad. If you have additional questions about traveling to the US with pharmaceuticals or having them mailed to you, you can find more FAQs and FDA contact information here.