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Tips for Buying Medicine Overseas

Be Careful Buying Medications in Other Countries


If you have a chronic health condition that requires medication, be sure to bring an ample supply when you travel outside the United States. Drugs purchased in other countries may not meet U.S. quality standards, according to Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

Potential Problems with Foreign Drugs

Here are some of the problems you could face if you buy drugs internationally:

  • They may not meet the same quality standards as those sold in the U.S.
  • Even if they have the same name as the drug you use, they may actually have a different chemical makeup, which could endanger your health.
  • They may contain differing levels of the active ingredient-either too much or too little.
  • They may contain toxic ingredients, contaminants, or other drugs.
  • They may be counterfeit. This is especially common with malaria-preventing drugs.

Buying Medications Overseas

If you must buy medications abroad, you can take steps to stay safe.
  • Before you leave home, check with the embassy of the country you're visiting to be sure your medication can legally be brought into the country. For a listing of foreign embassies, consult the State Department.
  • Carry a copy of your prescriptions, including an original package insert that includes the drug's brand, generic name, manufacturer, and dosage.
  • Leave your medications in a clearly labeled original container.
  • Carry a letter from your doctor explaining your condition and the medications you require. It should include your doctor's contact information-phone number, fax, and e-mail address.
  • Buy medicines only from licensed pharmacies.
  • Talk with the pharmacist about whether the drug you are buying has the exact same amount of the same active ingredient as the one you use in the U.S.
  • Check the drug's packaging. If it is missing or looks suspicious, the drug may be counterfeit. Learn how to identify counterfeit drugs.
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