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Q: Buy prescription drugs with no prescription ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   1 Comment )
Subject: Buy prescription drugs with no prescription
Category: Health > Medicine
Asked by: rt2001-ga
List Price: $10.00
Posted: 23 Jul 2002 05:51 PDT
Expires: 22 Aug 2002 05:51 PDT
Question ID: 44103
Is it legal for US residents to purchase prescription drugs from
overseas pharmacies if he or she do not pocess a valid prescription
from a US licensed physician? If yes, what are the conditions for

Request for Question Clarification by cobrien-ga on 23 Jul 2002 07:10 PDT
what state are you in?

Clarification of Question by rt2001-ga on 23 Jul 2002 07:24 PDT
FL, but its probably not relevant. You see, I'm writing an ad copy for
my client and would like to find out the truth before making a
statement. And this ad would be posted on the Net and would probably
be seen by folks from all states. Thank you for your interest.
Subject: Re: Buy prescription drugs with no prescription
Answered By: cobrien-ga on 23 Jul 2002 09:19 PDT
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
Hi rt2001-ga.

First of all, I must say that this research is not a substitute for
professional legal advice. If you are planning to use information in
an ad, I strongly recommend that you seek professional advice on this

In saying that, all the evidence I have found points to almost a
resounding  ‘no’ – legally, prescription drugs can’t be imported into
the US without a prescription. You mentioned US residents rather than
businesses, so I have concentrated on .

The importing of drugs into the US is covered by the US Customs
Service and the Food and Drug Administration. Advice from both these
sources says that importing drugs for personal use without a
prescription is illegal.

The US Customs site has a bit of information on this topic

The Website gives information on the importation of drugs for personal
use – which is most relevant to your question.

‘The importer must also declare to Customs that the medicine is for
personal use and show a valid prescription.’

‘Federal law prohibits importing drugs not approved by the FDA
regardless of whether there is a foreign or domestic prescription.
Customs officers may seize and destroy all non-approved drugs.’

There is no amount placed on personal use – different factors are
taken into account, such as the length of stay - but a valid
prescription is required.

You must also be aware of the drug’s origin – if it was exported from
the US originally, it appears that it is prohibited to re-import the
drugs – by anyone other than the manufacturer.

‘Prohibited: No person or business can import previously exported
prescription drugs except the original manufacturer (Prescription Drug
Marketing Act).’

In 1997, prescription drugs were one of the top commodities seized by
customs – however, they failed to make it on to the list since then.

The FDA has this advice for those considering buying prescription
drugs online:

‘Don't purchase from foreign Websites at this time because generally
it will be illegal to import the drugs bought from these sites, the
risks are greater, and there is very little the U.S. government can do
if you get ripped off.’

See also:

Drugs that are not licensed for use in the US are also illegal to
import, regardless of whether you have a prescription or not.

‘The United States Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (21 U.S.C.
sections 331(d), and 355(a)), which is administered by FDA, prohibits
the interstate shipment (which includes importation) of unapproved new
drugs. Unapproved new drugs are any drugs, including foreign-made
versions of U.S. approved drugs, that have not received FDA approval
to demonstrate they meet the federal requirements for safety and

There is also the safety aspect of buying prescription drugs online –
using medication without a proper examination or medical consultation
is, as always, strongly discouraged.

I’m sure you don’t need a lecture on the dubious nature of some
Internet traders but there are many risks to buying prescription
medication online – the drugs may be past their expiry date for a
start. There are plenty of sites that offer a legitimate online
pharmacy service, but the buyer must choose carefully.

‘Foreign-based pharmacies may tout low prices, but the potency,
quality and storage of their drugs may be inferior to medicine
manufactured in the United States. You also may get a counterfeit
drug, or substances that are not approved by the FDA.’
These sites also offer information on buying prescription medication

Search strategy:

‘buying prescription drugs online’ 

I hope this information meets your requirements. If not, please post a
clarification and I will do my best to meet it.


Request for Answer Clarification by rt2001-ga on 24 Jul 2002 03:39 PDT
Good day,

Thank you for your answer.

On 12 July 2001 (or around that time) the Drug Importation Amendment
was passed, making it legal for US residents to buy approved
prescription drugs from foreign sources.

So I guess the bottom line is... you can buy approved prescription
drugs from foreign sources... as long as you have a valid
prescription. And if you have NO valid prescription, buying
prescription whether in the US or foreign is illegal.

Is that correct?

Best regards,

Clarification of Answer by cobrien-ga on 24 Jul 2002 05:01 PDT
Hi rt2001-ga,

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 FDA’s 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 Service’s 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 FDA’s 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.


Clarification of Answer by cobrien-ga on 24 Jul 2002 10:10 PDT
Just a final note of caution: I would strongly advise getting
professional legal advice before using any information in an ad
campaign. As the state laws vary, you never know if you are
contravening a law somewhere in the US. Most of the information I have
provided you with is freely available on the FDA and Customs websites,
in addition to a few others.

To protect yourself and make sure that you are not inadvertantly
commiting a criminal act, please seek professional legal advice. You
could also ring the FDA at the number I gave you, or contact the
Customs Service through their site (
Better to be safe than sorry!

rt2001-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars

Subject: Re: Buy prescription drugs with no prescription
From: austin_trill-ga on 24 Jul 2002 12:24 PDT
I think that you can buy drugs that are prescription in other
countries (i.e. Domperidone from New Zealand) and ship it to the
United States without a U.S. prescription, since domperidone isn't
scheduled in the US.

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