Upon a visit to our local pharmacy, I discovered how some Americans are buying their prescriptions up here in Canada, I did not realize they were allowed to do this.
I learnt that American’s will drive up to Canada and visit Walk-In clinics specifically for a doctor there to write them a prescription. The clinic will confirm with the US-based Doctor that the prescription is legitimate and they need it according to their medical history. Americans will then visit a Canadian pharmacy to fill their medication. This happens a lot in the town where we live, Newton, British Columbia; I won’t mention the particular pharmacy but it is an international chain.
Why do American’s do this?
- Canada buys drugs from pharmaceutical companies at an agreed rate which makes them much cheaper than the US. Therefore, American citizens will save themselves thousands of dollars by buying them this route. For example, 3 months supply of a branded medication in Canada will cost a months supply in the US.
- American citizens cannot afford their medication in the US so it’s cheaper to drive or fly up here to buy them.
- The US health care system is screwed up, and getting worse under Mr Trump, which leaves Americans without any choice to do this if they want to live.
Americans will pay full price for their medication in Canada. Canadian’s get their health coverage from the universal system and pay their rate for medication. There is also extended health coverage in Canada, such as through private insurance, which makes it even cheaper. Even at the most expensive rate, Americans will still save money on their prescriptions.
Is it legal?
Technically it is illegal for US citizens to do this as they might be considered importing drugs which, according to the law, should only be done by manufacturers. From what I understand there some flexibility under that rule whereby the drugs must only be for personal use, no greater than 3 months supply and that particular brand/generic has been signed off by a US doctor.
However, from what the pharmacy was suggesting the supply that the US citizens are buying in Canada go well beyond 3 months, in fact, they are buying thousands of dollars worth of medication in particular insulin. It’s very doubtful that American’s are declaring the drugs to customs officials when the cross the border.
There is pressure from the US that the drugs bought overseas do not meet Federal Drug Administration (FDA) guidelines and can seriously affect the health of those buying them. Unfortunately, due to the prices in the US, it seems that people are willing to take that risk often not having any choice. If going through the proper process American’s should get 2 copies of a prescription from their local doctor, hand one into the Canadian pharmacy then declare all the necessary paperwork, including the copy of the prescription, to Customs and Border Patrol agents. However, people should understand the potential illegality of what they are doing.
The US really needs to fix this situation so people don’t have to travel or rely on overseas countries. There will come a time when people won’t be able to travel, due to changes in age or ability, and should be able to buy decent priced medication in their local area. The US is supposed to be one of the richest countries in the world, you would think they can resolve something as easy as this.