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Q. What’s the latest on buying prescription drugs from Canada? The cost of brand name medications is destroying us financially. Is it true that buying drugs from a Canadian pharmacy is illegal?

A. In a word, yes. Buying prescription drugs from any pharmacy outside the U.S. is against federal law.

That said, neither the FDA nor U.S. Customs has been prosecuting grannies for buying heart medicine from Canada. To make things more complicated, Maine has passed legislation that allows its residents to purchase prescription drugs from Canada.

Congress Is Considering New Legislation

In Congress, Senators McCain and Klobuchar have reintroduced the Safe and Affordable Drugs from Canada Act. It would allow Americans with a valid prescription to purchase their drugs from licensed Canadian pharmacies.

In the meantime, people who would like to know more about this process may find our Guide to Saving Money on Medicine helpful. You may also find the website a useful one, since it vets Canadian mail order pharmacies and will tell you where the drugs are coming from.

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  1. Honor

    To Nancy: I have heard that you go to a doctor once in Canada to be checked (doctors anywhere have to do this) and they mail you the prescriptions. You don’t carry anything over the border. I also heard that as long as it wasn’t something like vicodin, the Feds can’t be bothered. I know someone who was taking botox for a nerve disease. Don’t you need a doctor to inject it for you? (it’s not like insulin or epi-pens, the location is very important). That’s much cheaper up there too.

  2. Nancy

    I was told by my doctor here in washington state that it was illegal for her to write a prescription for a canadian pharmacy. most of the canadian pharmacies legitimate sites also say you need a prescription. So unless I’m will to travel over the border I can’t get my meds any cheaper than here in the U.S.? What about customs? What happens if you get caught? I’m not talking about any drug besides Retin-A, not opioids or anything harmful. Seems they have us in a no-win situation.

  3. Marge

    UNLESS you check Pharmacy Checker first, do not purchase drugs from a Canadian Pharmacy. This group vets out Canadian Pharmacies and even lists for you which countries they get their drugs from. I will not purchase anything from any pharmacy that knowingly deals with China or India. It is important to understand the laws and regulations within the country where your drugs are being made. This applies to more than just Canadian Pharmacies – it ALSO APPLIES TO American pharmacies too. It is impossible to find out where your drugs are manufactured since any one component in the medication can be manufactured any place in the world and not necessarily the same place that the other components of the prescription are. It’s too bad, but this is the way it is. If the drug has a generic equivalent, you can have them made by a compounded pharmacy who can tell you exactly where they get their products from. I have had excellent experiences with a compounding pharmacy here in Illinois. However, please vet your compounder too. Fraud exists everywhere.

  4. pamela

    My meds come from Walmart pharmacy,I made them give me the ups code off of the larger bottle only to find my medicine comes from China My reason for checking is they changed the shape of my blood pressure meds about eight months ago and about six months ago bazarr things began happening ,my hair fell out iI developed both dramatic eyesight and hearing loss the very same night and I’ve lost feeling in the bottom of my feet. I am not a diabetic nor do I have a thyroid problem. Yesterday I was diagnosed with severe Neuropathy,today this may sound stupid but my face feels numb and my entire leg foot and hands go numb daily. I’m scared and I don’t want my meds to come from China. Why can wal mart sell us drugs from China but we can’t buy from Canada,

  5. robert
    Shelton, WA

    My wife recently was prescribed Lyrica for nerve damage in her legs.The US pharmacies wanted $550 for a month’s supply. We could not afford that so we went to Mexico and bought a month’s supply for $11. We drove 1400 miles to get the drug, and my wife now walks without pain. Our pharmaceutical companies are ripping the American people off.

  6. Steph

    Pretty sad U.S. residents can’t afford prescriptions in their own country. For that matter most can’t afford health care and now skyrocketing insurance costs. This country discouraging citizens to be healthy.

  7. Granny Gruntz
    Frankfort, IL

    *Many Chicago area local pharmacies such as Walmart, Sam’s Club, Target, and some super markets, have a list of generic medications that cost (1) $4.00/30 days, (2) $10.00/90 days. *Plan D is a joke as far as I am concerned! *I was being charged $35.00/monthly premiums supposedly to save on the cost of three (3) prescriptions. *THEN one hits the “donut hole”, ALSO A JOKE! *I cancelled Plan D because I could NOT AFFORD the premium PLUS “reduced” prescription prices. *INSTEAD I go to a local super market that has the (1) $4.00/30 days, (2) $10.00/90 FREE prescription program. *The local Jewel chain super markets charge an annual fee of $12.00 for the same generic pricing program. *Check your local Walmart, Sam’s Club, Target, super markets,c etc., for these pricing programs. ;-) *Sure will save you $$$$ AND no need to order from Canada!! **I go to a local super market and my three (3) prescriptions, @ $10.00/each, cost me a TOTAL OF $30.00 for 90-days! *AND there is NO annual fee for this program! ‘-) *Do yourself a favor and check your local stores – wherever you live!

  8. Joe
    New England

    During my unemployed period and before the patent ran out, Lipitor was $3 a pill stateside. Same drug from the same supplier was running $0.75 to $1.00 a pill from a Canadian online drugstore. It even came in the same packaging and from Pfizer production facilities in Northern Ireland and Bahamas. NO DIFFERENCE from the American produced pills.

    Today, with patent protection ended and me employed and covered by a pharmacy program my Lipitor from American drug sources today runs $0.75 or $1.00 a pill – and lo and behold comes from Pfizer production facilities in Northern Ireland and Bahamas. Generic Lipitor might run 10 cents less a pill, but who knows the formulation or efficacy?

    So one can conclude that FDA is complicit in defending patent protection? This can be a good thing as it encourages development of new pharmaceuticals – but it can be a bad thing in that it allows monopolistic practice by the manufacturers.

    I voted with my wallet – and good logical sense to assure myself of formulation.
    As with any doctoring, be your own best advocate, and judge of efficacy.

  9. Tom

    Last year I did a fair bit of research starting with the very helpful Peoples Pharmacy’s write up mentioned above on this topic. As mentioned in that piece, there are Canadian Pharmacies and then there are “Canadian Pharmacies.” That piece gave some very helpful information on how to screen for the “real” Canadian Pharmacies, but there are still many potholes to navigate, primarily with respect to determining if the medicine (brand) is or is not counterfeit if you are doing this via the mail. If you live on the US Canadian border, great you can inspect the meds and interview the pharmacy. I also found that most of the legit ones were not offering much of a discount on the “Brand.” Perhaps I did not find the right sources there. Also as Diana mentions above, even if they are legit CPs, ask them where the med is coming from and you will hear a lot of Turkey, India, China, etc. Not saying US or other country big pharmas don’t make stuff there, but do your own due diligence and caveat emptor my friends. US legal issues were the least of my worries. Good luck!

    Ps: And yes if anyone on here has hit on a real CP that sells “Brand” at a discount please let us know. Generics I could find but “Brand” that was legit, I struck out.

    • Marilyn

      Tom, several points: will indeed tell you the source of your pills. Question back at you: will your local pharmacy tell you where your drugs come from? And ordering my brand name drugs from Canada thru saved me a BUNDLE. One drug was shipped to me from Minnesota, as the US Drug company had a contract to provide pills for Canadian citizens.

      DOJ has said they will not sue grandpa. You want our pills more equitably priced? Have the part of Part D repealed so the government has to negotiate with Medicare as the VA has. Now there is a bargain.

  10. Helen M
    Modesto, CA

    For the first four months of the year, I am covered for prescription medications thru my medicare advantage plan. Sometime in the 5th month (last year) I hit the donut hole. This year I will not be covered for generics thru the gap. I chose this plan because it offered other financial advantages. Some of my generics will be low cost thru Walmart and other $10 plans. My only brand, lyrica, is class 11 and cannot be purchased online, legally. I plan to order my other generics that are more expensive from Canada. Done this in the past. Every other country negotiates with the drug companies to obtain more favorable pricing. In this country, only the VA does. Medicare is not allowed to. Is this crazy? In all those countries the drug companies happily supply drugs at lower prices and still make a profit. After all, isn’t it their aim to get everyone on their drugs?

  11. Kathleen

    Of course it’s illegal. Big pharma can’t make the money they want. Why would you go outside of the USA for drugs? Because they don’t have an agenda like the elites do here. They don’t sell things under a name you trust, but it’s really something else, like Aspirin. Can’t get pure aspirin anymore it seems. Read the bottle (NSAID) not pure aspirin like its being sold as. People are being dooped because most people don’t read. They are too trusting. Still not a reason to continue with this sort of insincerity from pharmacies.

  12. Susan C.

    I have been buying ALL my drugs from Canada from 12 years and have saved thousands of dollars. Many of my friends do the same. The pharmaceutical companies in the US are making millions of dollars because of the ridiculous prices.

    • Kathleen

      You go and do it. Where’s the law that shows and says it’s illegal?

    • tom pryjomski
      san antonio tx

      would you mind sharing which companies you have used safely….

      • Marilyn

        Tom P, please look at the database It is located in New York, and you can call them if you wish. I have ordered my BRAND NAME drugs from Canada Drugs and El Cheapo Drugs. When you go to the database, it asks you to enter your drugs. You then look at the cost per pill or cost for 30 or 90, and see how they ship. Both I mentioned have an 800#, and the customer service person spoke English. If you doubt the quality, ask where your local drugs originate. Am betting both are from the same source. You then ask your doctor to fax his prescription to the Canadian pharmacy. They might come thru customs or they might come thru Minnesota as one drug company had a factory in MN.

        Last time I called for a new anti-biotic. Cost here: $325 co-pay thru my part D insurance. Canada already had the generic brand: $100. Doctor had gotten a sample from narc rep: $0, but you can see the difference.

        DOJ is not going to sue grandpa and grandma…and before the Internet, bus loads from northeast states took seniors across the border to do just that: order their drugs to save money..

      • Dann
        Cincinnati OH


        This is comment is a little old, so I’m not sure if you’ll get it, but i found several companies like the one reviewed here on this online pharmacy review site that are credible. I used that one for some drugs and everything came through great! Hope that helps.

    • John Steniger

      Hi..I am new to this and in a donut hole. I want to buy from Canada..what Canadian pharmacy do you Recommend? Thanks John

    • Ivy
      Lafayette, La

      Susan C., do you purchase your drugs from Canada thru online? If so, can you tell me what website is it or what pharmacy? I take Lyrica 150mg for my neuropathic pain but it is costing me so much. Thank you

  13. Diana Ward
    Boone, NC

    Several years ago I purchased a couple of drugs I was taking from a Canadian Pharmacy. The drugs were sent to me from India and when I opened the packages the stench was awful. My doctor told me not to take the drugs because the odor indicated the drugs were decomposing. Since that time I have stuck with local pharmacies. Many pharmacies now have drug plans. For instance, my local drug store has a discount plan. Sometimes you need to shop around but good deals are out there. Some other people may have better luck with Canadian pharmacies than I did.

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