Tips for traveling to the U.S. with medications

Tips for traveling to the U.S. with medications

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(HealthDay News) -- Traveling to the United States with medications? Here's what you need to know to avoid problems.

Americans traveling abroad are not allowed to bring home foreign versions of medications approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The FDA warned that it can't ensure these foreign drugs are safe and effective. There is also no way to confirm that medications are made properly using the same formulation as FDA-approved drugs.

"As a pharmacist at the FDA, I advise people to remember that we at FDA cannot ensure that medications approved in other countries are safe or effective, or have been manufactured properly," Lindsay Wagner, an FDA pharmacist, said in an agency news release.

When someone with a serious medical condition needs treatment with a foreign drug for which there is no U.S. equivalent, the FDA will review an application to import the drug for personal use. A letter from a doctor explaining that the drug is part of ongoing treatment that began outside the United States, or the name and address of a licensed U.S. physician who will supervise use of the drug, is required.

Foreigners planning to carry medications into the United States should have a valid prescription in hand or a note from a doctor written in English explaining why the drug is necessary. It's a good idea to keep medication in its original container with the doctor's instructions printed on the label, the FDA said.

The FDA also advises against carrying more than a 90-day supply of a specific medication into United States, but very few American pharmacies can fill prescriptions from another country. Foreigners who stay longer than 90 days can arrange to have their medication delivered by mail or courier.

Medication sent through the mail may be detained until an FDA inspector screens it. To expedite this process, which could take up to a month, make sure the outside package states that it contains your doctor's letter to a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer.

Anyone coming to the United States with medications should contact the FDA, CBP and U.S. Transportation Security Administration beforehand. These agencies may have different restrictions over various medications.

Anyone with questions should contact the FDA's Division of Drug Information at 855-543-DRUG (3784) or send email to

More information

More on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's Personal Importation Policy can also be found online.

Information on the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency's restrictions can be found here.

The U.S. Transportation Security Administration provides more about on traveling with medication.

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