Feature Archive

The Letter (and Spirit) of Drug Import Laws

It's illegal (nudge, nudge) to buy prescriptions drugs (wink, wink) from other countries.

By Neil Osterweil
WebMD Feature

Reviewed By Michael Smith

Let's make this very clear. It's absolutely, unequivocally, without question illegal to reimport into the U.S. prescription drugs that have been exported to other countries, or to bring in substances that are banned under U.S. law, for any reason, except when you've got a prescription and the FDA or customs agents say it's OK, or decide to look the other way.

Get it? Neither do we.

The old adage that "those who love the law and sausages should never watch either one being made" certainly applies to drug policy. But neither the FDA nor the U.S. Department of Homeland Security are necessarily to blame for the confusion.

Burdened by skyrocketing health care costs, consumers, employers, and insurers are looking for ways to save, and one of the most obvious targets is drug costs. Because Canada and most other industrialized nations impose price restrictions and limit what pharmacies can charge for drugs, the cost of a brand-name medication sold in Toronto can be as much as 55% less than what the identical drug is sold for just across Lake Ontario in Rochester, N.Y.