Using Prescriptions From US Doctors for Canadian Medicines

According to researchers, drug prices at local US pharmacies are the highest in the world (read why). More to the point, in some cases, the difference in prices can reach up to 90%, even in the case of countries with a similar level of medicine, like Canada.

Medicines from Canada

It is not surprising that millions of US citizens are not content to accept such overpayments and strive to find some solutions. The most popular variant is to import medicines from abroad, for example, from Canada ― this country is situated nearby, and the local government is known to effectively control the quality of medicines. In the overwhelming majority of cases, customers prefer to order medications on the Internet, in order to save a trip. They choose a suitable online service, with being one of the drug distributors that can boast the wide assortment, the spotless reputation and the ultimate quality of service, and replenish their supplies from there.

Why Are Drug Prices in Canada So Much Lower?

Here are top 3 reasons:

  1. The Canadian government regulates prices set by pharma companies. In this country, manufacturers are required to agree prices with a special board. A company can get approval to sell a medicine only if a price proposed is not higher than those of identical products sold in other countries with economic conditions that are similar to Canadian ones. As a result, medications in Canada cannot be unreasonably expensive. At the same time, in the USA, drug manufacturers can establish any prices at their sole discretion. Naturally, most of them strive to take the most out of such advantageous conditions and to raise their revenues to the maximum.
  2. In Canada, prescription drugs are not promoted. Direct-to-consumer advertising of such products is legally prohibited in order to prevent patients from using them without medical supervision and, as a result, to protect them from potential adverse side effects. Also, if a person is not exposed to such advertisements, there is a little chance that he will come to his doctor and ask to prescribe a particular medicine. In some cases, it may be truly hard for a doctor to resist indefatigable demands of a patient. It is well-known that high demand is the key factor that provokes manufacturers to raise prices, so, the ban on advertising slows down the growth of drug prices to certain extent. As for the situation in the USA, there, drug advertising is legally allowed, which significantly contributes to the rise of demand and, consequently, prices.
  3. Pharma companies introduce new generics to Canadians around 5 years earlier than to US customers. Today, most doctors prefer to prescribe generics instead of brand-name drugs, whenever it is possible. So, according to statistics, about 80% of prescriptions signed by US doctors include generics. And, in many countries, the situation is similar. Certainly, the biggest advantage of generics is much lower prices, which can be even several times cheaper, while the quality of such products is identical to that of original remedies. When a patient gets access to an affordable generic instead of a more expensive brand medication, that significantly reduces his drug expenses.

Is It Allowed to Import Prescription Medicines to the USA from Canada?

The issue of legalization of drug importation has been frequently and intensely discussed by US politicians and experts in recent years. Some influencers, including the current president, insist that importation of medicines from Canada is a good solution to the problem of unbearably high drug prices.

On the other hand, their opponents claim that such an idea will both put patients’ health at risk and violate valid American laws. Also, there is a high risk that such a step will provide a temporary effect only. Over some time, manufacturers will manage to equalize prices in both countries.

One more problem that prevents the US government from implementing this strategy is the negative opinion of Canadian authorities and citizens. They worry that such a step will cause a shortage of medications at local drugstores. The US population is several times bigger than that of Canada. And, if most Americans start turning to Canadian pharmacies, they will quickly exhaust their supplies. Certainly, the shortage will boost demand and, as a result, prices. The position of Canada is inflexible, and their government has already clarified it via the corresponding declaration.

So, as of today, US citizens are not legally allowed to buy medicines abroad and to bring them to the USA. The situation with ordering medications from abroad on the Internet is identical. And it is unlikely that it will change in the near future.

According to, the main reason for such a prohibition is that medicines imported are rarely approved by this administration, and, consequently, they may fail to comply with the quality and safety standards valid and applicable in the USA. However, in some cases, importing drugs for personal use, i.e. not for reselling, is allowed. Personal importation refers both to bringing drugs in baggage and receiving them via a postal or courier service. By the way, one may be required to confirm in writing that the medicine bought is intended for personal use only.

It can be allowed to import a prescription medication to the US territory if:

  1. It is intended for the serious condition, which cannot be treated with drugs and other medical methods that are currently available in the USA.
  2. The use of the product is not associated with unreasonable risks.
  3. The quantity imported does not exceed a 3-month supply.
  4. The medication is needed in order to continue the treatment course that has been started abroad or the patient can provide the name and the contact information of the licensed doctor from the USA, who will be responsible for monitoring the treatment process.

It is well-known that, every year, millions of Americans import medicines for personal use from abroad. As of now, the FDA is focused on detecting those who import medications for commercial purposes, i.e. for reselling. But that does not mean that one can freely import medications for oneself ignoring the valid rules. If one breaks the law striving to cut drug expenses, he risks being prosecuted.

Do Canadian Pharmacies Accept Prescriptions from US Doctors?

Pharmacists in Canada are legally prohibited to fill prescriptions signed by foreign doctors, but there is a simple solution. If a prescription is reviewed and cosigned by a local doctor, a pharmacist can fill it. That is why many drugstores in Canada cooperate with local practitioners and ask them to cosign prescriptions provided by buyers from abroad (or their doctors). This is how operates, making it possible for American citizens to have access to healthcare products.

The procedure looks as follows:

  • A patient sends a prescription from his doctor from the USA (or other country) to a Canadian drugstore chosen.
  • This company sends it to a Canadian doctor, so that he can review it. In addition to a prescription, this local specialist receives other medical information about a patient in order to make sure that there are no contraindications or drug interaction risks.
  • In case a specialist from Canada has any questions, he can demand any extra information. He will not affix his signature, until he is absolutely sure that a choice of a medicine is perfect and there are no unreasonable health risks.
  • After a pharmacy receives an approval from a local doctor, an order is processed and sent out.

As it has been noted before, a patient can buy a 3-month supply of a medicine as a maximum. Then, a prescription can be refilled, if it allows that. When a number of permitted refills is over, a customer is required to visit his doctor again, in order to get a new prescription and to send it to a pharmacy.

Is It Safe to Get a Prescription from a Doctor without Actually Visiting Him?

This issue is highly disputable, and experts have not managed to arrive at the common view yet. Some specialists claim that signing a prescription without seeing a patient is unethical and involves serious health risks, since, in order to recommend a medication, a doctor needs to receive exhaustive information on a state of a patient’s health, current complaints, concurrent diseases, drugs he takes, etc.

But their opponents insist that such cosigning contributes to effectiveness and safety of a treatment course, as, in fact, a patient is served by two doctors. After a specialist from the USA issues a prescription, it is scrutinized and approved by a doctor from Canada. If the second specialist finds a mistake, he will report it and will not sign a prescription. As a result, a patient will avoid adverse health consequences.

In fact, if you trust your doctor from the USA, there is no reason to worry about any safety issues.

Can a Prescription Be Transferred from a Pharmacy in the USA to a Canadian Facility?

In short, that is prohibited by both American and Canadian laws. In some US states, such transfers are not directly forbidden, but pharmacists are unwilling to get involved in them in any case, since importation of drugs to the USA is generally illegal. As for Canadian pharmacies, they can accept prescriptions issued or authorized by licensed Canadian doctors only.

So, if a customer from the USA wants to order a medicine from Canada, but has a prescription with an American drugstore, he needs to turn to his healthcare provider again and to ask to give him a new prescription or to send it directly to a Canadian pharmacy chosen. As you can see, buying prescription medications from Canada is both profitable and safe, if one strictly sticks to the letter of the law.

Read also: The US Pharma Industry in 2020: the Professionals’ Opinions and Forecasts