Clarification of Answer by
24 Jul 2002 05:01 PDT
My first search on the Customs Website did not turn up that
information. However, when I went back a second time to check again,
using identical search terms, it was one of the first couple of search
results! The law has been changed slightly, to allow US residents to
import a certain amount of FDA approved prescription drugs for
personal use without a prescription. This is limited to 50 dosage
units, however, and the rule still applies for unapproved drugs the
FDA may seize them at their discretion.
'A new bill was recently passed by Congress that amends a portion of
the Controlled Substances Act (21USC956(a)). This amendment allows a
United States resident to import up to 50 dosage units of a controlled
medication without a valid prescription at an international land
border. These medications must be declared upon arrival, be for your
own personal use and in their original container. However, travelers
should be aware that drug products which are not approved by the U.S.
Food and Drug Administration may not be acceptable for such
There may be a couple of factors that the FDA may take into account
when sezing unapproved drugs these are also listed on the site.
However, this is not binding:
Even if all of the factors noted in the guidance are present, the
drugs remain illegal and FDA may decide that such drugs should be
refused entry or seized. The guidance represents FDAs current
thinking regarding the issues of personal importation and is intended
only to provide operating guidance for FDA personnel. The guidance
does not create any legally enforceable rights for the public; nor
does it operate to bind FDA or the public.
I would also draw your attention to this bit of information, which was
linked to in the original answer:
The entry of prescription medicines is restricted and subject to the
approval of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Depending on
the FDA review of the medicine, it may be released to the addressee or
seized. There are, however, provisions allowing passengers to hand
carry prescription drugs into the United States if they enter through
a land border with Canada or Mexico.
There does not appear to be any provision for buying them from an
Internet site. However, as I stated in my original answer, this advice
is no substitute for proper legal advice - it is general information
only - and I would recommend that you seek professional advice on this
subject. You can also contact the FDA at (301) 443-6553.
If you have a prescription, the Customs Services guidelines for
processing people with prescription drugs state that the controlled
substance must be:
in the original dispensed container, and have the trade or chemical
name and symbol designating the schedule on the label, or have name
and address of pharmacy or practitioner and prescription number (if
The importer must also declare to Customs that the medicine is for
personal use and show a valid prescription.
The guidelines state that a prescription can be:
the doctors written prescription, or a photocopy of the doctor's
written prescription, or the label on the original container
(containing the above information). However, state law varies, and
Customs officers are asked to advise travellers of this:Customs
officers should advise travelers if a violation of state prescription
requirements is found
With regards to domestic online sales, as state law varies, I cannot
say definitively that it is illegal to buy drugs without a
prescription in every single state although I suspect it is.
However, I would err on the side of caution, considering this extract
from an article:
The Clinton Administration brought the issue to the forefront with
its initiative in December to invest $10 million to help the FDA
"identify, investigate, and prosecute Web sites selling such items as:
prescription drugs without a valid prescription, unapproved new drugs,
counterfeit drugs, and expired or illegally diverted pharmaceuticals.
I also direct you to the FDAs FAQ on online sales of prescription
I hope this clears everything up!
Once again, I urge you to seek professional legal advice on this
matter before submitting your ad copy while I have tried to find the
most up to date information possible, legislation can be interpreted
differently. To cover your bases, professional legal advice is
probably your best option. Google Answers is not meant as a substitute
for informed legal advice - only as general information.