NewsMaking It In San Diego


Making It in San Diego: What you should know about traveling with prescription drugs, medications

Posted at 9:22 AM, Feb 11, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-11 20:39:15-05

(KGTV) — With the price of prescriptions in the U.S. ever a concern for families and individuals, the option of getting medication outside of the country is often considered.

Federal agencies, however, caution those who try to bring medication purchased outside the U.S. into the country that they may not be able to do so.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security says medications must be kept in their original container when traveling or must be accompanied by a copy of a prescription or doctor's letter. All medications entering the U.S. must have a valid prescription or doctor's note. For foreign nationals, a copy of a passport or visa may also be required.

According to the FDA, "in most circumstances, it is illegal for individuals to import drugs or devices into the U.S. for personal use because these products purchased from other countries often have not been approved by FDA for use and sale in the U.S."

So while a drug may have been approved in another country, if the FDA has not approved it, it's likely considered illegal.

The FDA says this is to try and protect users from potentially harmful drugs since the agency can't ensure the out-of-country drug's safety and effectiveness.

In certain cases, drugs are okay to bring from out of the country, according to the FDA:

  • Product is not for treatment of a serious condition and there is no known significant health risk (Over the Counter, OTC); and
  • If for serious conditions,
    • The product is for a serious condition for which effective treatment may not be available domestically either through commercial or clinical means.
    • There is no known commercialization or promotion of the product to persons residing in the U.S.
    • The product does not represent an unreasonable risk.
    • The consumer affirms in writing that the product is for personal use.
    • The quantity is generally not more than a three month supply and either:
      • Provide the name and address of the doctor licensed in the U.S. responsible for your treatment with the product, or
      • Provide evidence that the product is for the continuation of a treatment begun in a foreign country.

The FDA has limits on the types of pharmaceuticals admissible into the U.S. To see if a specific drug can be imported into the country, click here or call 301-769-0356.

For a look at the FDA's full recommendations, visit their website here. The FDA also has a useful guide online for traveling to the U.S. with medications.