Can Americans Avoid High Drug Prices Shopping at Canadian Pharmacies?

Americans fare the worst when it comes to prescription drug prices (and often, with over-the-counter drugs as well). With any luck, rules will soften and it will become easier to fill your drug prescriptions in Canada. Senator Bernie Sanders introduced a bill in the Senate designed to address high drug costs in the United States. Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), sponsored the bill companion bill in the House. The bill has received bipartisan support, and will hopefully move through Congress with some speed, since President Trump also supports reducing drug prices.

The temptation to cross the border to avoid high drug prices by shopping at Canadian pharmacies is high. While there are limits to obtaining prescription drugs across the border, according to the FDA, there are exceptions – and it’s these exceptions that can help some people find a way to save money on drugs. The FDA authorizes the import of drugs when:

  • The drug is for use for a serious condition for which effective treatment is not available in the United States;
  • There is no commercialization or promotion of the drug to U.S. residents;
  • The drug is considered not to represent an unreasonable risk;
  • The individual importing the drug verifies in writing that it is for his or her own use, and provides contact information for the doctor providing treatment or shows the product is for the continuation of treatment begun in a foreign country; and
  • Generally, not more than a 3-month supply of the drug is imported.

If you meet one or more of these exceptions, you may be able to save money on your prescriptions by importing them from Canada. One of the best ways to do this is by buying prescription drugs from reputable online pharmacies. You must be able to provide a verifiable prescription from a doctor and be taking a medication that meets one of the exceptions above.

A word of caution: There are pharmacies online that claim you do not need to have a prescription to buy a specific drug or that they have "doctors standing by" to prescribe you the medicine you need. Do not put yourself, your money, and possibly your identity at risk working with this kind of pharmacy. A legitimate pharmacy will require a prescription from your doctor and certification that you actually need the drug in question. Make sure the pharmacy you choose to work with is certified. 

CanaRx was the first international prescription provider, working directly with companies in the U.S. to provide health education and programs.The Canadian International Pharmacy Association (CIPA) offers a list of approved (certified) online pharmacies that they recommend for obtaining international prescription drugs at a lower cost. You can find the list here; it is extensive, allowing you a number of options for finding the right pharmacy to work with you and help you lower your prescription costs.