Fact – Several States and Municipalities Import Prescription Drugs from Canada

According to the Council of State Governments, thirteen state and seven local governments have plans or existing programs to import or facilitate the importation of drugs from Canada.

The states include (in alphabetical order):

Connecticut, Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

The local governments include:

Boston (Mass.), Burlington (Vt.), Cambridge (Mass.), Montgomery (Ala.), Oak Creek (Wis.), Palm Beach County (Fla.), Revere (Mass.), Springfield (Mass.) and Washington (D.C.).

Source: Trends Alert – Prescription Drug Importation (PDF File / The Council of State Governments / June 2004) (Dead Link)

Originally Posted June 30, 2004

Fact – Importing Drugs for Personal Use is Permissible

Importing prescription drugs from Canada is permissible so long as the following conditions are met:

1) The drugs are for personal use.
2) The individual seeking to import the drugs has a valid prescription from a licensed U.S. physician.
3) The quantity of drugs does not exceed a three (3) months supply.
4) There is no known commercialization or promotion to persons residing in the U.S. by those involved in the distribution of the drugs.
5) The individual seeking to import the drugs affirms in writing that it is for the patient’s own personal use.
6) The individual seeking to import the drugs provides the name and address of the doctor licensed in the U.S. responsible for his or her treatment with the product.
7) The drugs do not contain a narcotic or controlled substance.

Personal Use

Drugs imported from Canada must be for your own, personal use. In other words, you may not import drugs for resale. You may not import drugs for family, friends or any other third party. Any importation other than for your own personal use is a violation of drug import regulations.

Valid Prescription

In order to import prescription drugs, you must have a valid prescription from your doctor. Importing prescription drugs without a valid prescription from a licensed U.S. physician violates FDA regulations. In Canada, any pharmacy that dispenses prescription drugs without a prescription violates Canadian regulations. Online pharmacies offering to dispense prescription drugs without a valid prescription should be avoided.


To ensure that prescription drugs are imported for personal use, the quantity that you may import is limited to a three (3) months supply. Any shipments over three (3) months supply may be deemed importation for resale which violates personal import regulations. If your prescription allows refills, you may import up to three (3) refills, one (1) refill every three (3) months. To import more than three (3) refills, you would require another prescription from your doctor.

Commercialization and Promotion

If those involved in the distribution of the drugs being imported conduct commercialization or promotion to persons residing in the U.S., the shipment may be held by customs and/or denied entry. Canadian prescription drug import agents in your mall and overseas pharmacies that advertise to you through direct mail, unsolicited bulk e-mail (spam) or any other form of commercialization or promotion are in violation of regulations and are best avoided.

Narcotics and Controlled Substances

Narcotics and other controlled substances are subject to DEA jurisdiction and cannot be imported under personal importation regulations. Such items may be held by customs and referred to the DEA for investigation. Exporting narcotics is a violation of Canadian export regulations and any pharmacy that offers narcotics for export should be avoided.


According to 21 U.S.C. ยง 381(d), re-importation of FDA approved prescription drugs (drugs that are manufactured in the U.S. and exported to Canada) is illegal. To the best of our knowledge, however, no individual has been prosecuted since 1988 for re-importing prescription drugs for their own, personal use.


FDA Guidelines
FDA Guidelines for Personal Importation (Dead Link)

Relevant Code:
Sec. 381. – Imports and exports

Originally Posted February 20, 2004