This travelers guide to taking prescription medicine into the US can be helpful for those who are traveling and need to carry their medicines with them.
It is common to take over-the-counter medications (or non-prescription medicines) with us whenever we go on a trip, whether domestically or internationally, just in case we might need them.
But can you travel with your prescription medicine to the United States? The short answer is yes. US airport security is fairly lenient with carrying prescription medicine, yet there are certain rules you need to comply with.
This article will detail the guidelines for traveling with medication into the U.S.
When you come to the U.S. with your prescription medications, there are three authorities that you’ll have to go through before you can enter the country.
The rules and regulations will be different with different agencies and may have other requirements or jurisdiction over a product. So it is better to check with each agency before you travel with medicines into the country.
A word of caution: The FDA prohibits personal importation, by mail or in person, of fraudulent prescription and nonprescription drugs and medical devices. It is illegal to import drugs used in other countries if they haven’t been approved by the FDA for use or sale in the U.S.
However, there are situations in which the FDA will allow the importation of medicines:
If you are a foreign national (either a non-US citizen or a permanent resident of the U.S.) who is in the US temporarily and needs to have your prescription medication sent to you by mail or courier, you have to provide documents:
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Controlled substances are drugs or products that are tightly controlled by the government because they can be abused or cause addiction. The control of the drugs applies to the way they are made, used, handled, stored, and distributed. This can include opioids, stimulants, depressants, hallucinogens, and anabolic steroids.
There are severe penalties for importing such substances into the US. So it’s best to take precautions to avoid the consequences.
For importing such substances for personal use, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) makes the final decision. Some cough medicines, tranquilizers, sleeping pills, antidepressants, or stimulants can contain potentially addictive drugs or narcotics.
You can take the following steps in such a situation:
For additional information, visit the DEA website.
Note: There are additional requirements for U.S. residents carrying legally acquired controlled substances (other than illegal drugs like marijuana, cocaine, heroin, or LSD) into the US from other countries.
If you don’t have a prescription for the substance from a US-licensed medical practitioner (registered with, and authorized by the DEA), you cannot import more than 50 dosage units of the substance into the U.S. But if you do have a prescription from an authorized person, you can import more than 50 dosages, if all other legal requirements are fulfilled.
Travel experts advise taking all doses of the prescription medications and medical supplies you’ll need for your vacation in your carry-on bag, if at all possible, despite the TSA’s suggestion that you only bring the prescription medications and medical liquids you’ll need. You don’t want to be without your pill box if your flight is delayed or you miss your connection.
The chance that crucial prescriptions may get misplaced in transportation is lower if you bring your medications on the flight. Even while delayed luggage is always a hassle, it might become risky if you have a strict medication schedule.
A transportation security administration officer may likely question you about the medication, especially if it is a controlled substance since your medications will go through the usual x-ray screening procedure. The best way to show what medications you are carrying is to keep a detailed list of your medicines on your phone or paper.
If the medically necessary liquid or gel substances are in bottles or containers greater than 3.4 ounces, you must declare them to a security screening officer when you arrive at the security checkpoint.
You have two options for declaring your prescription medication to the screening officer: verbally or in writing. To speed up the screening process, bring your doctor’s notes, your original prescription bottles or containers, and other supporting documents.
Personal importation of unapproved versions of FDA-approved drugs from overseas is not permitted by the FDA. FDA cannot guarantee that foreign-made versions of FDA-approved medications have been correctly manufactured, are safe and effective, or have the same formulation as the FDA-approved versions.
You should see a healthcare professional if you need to fill a prescription while traveling to the U.S. It may vary from state to state, but only a few pharmacies are able to fill a foreign prescription.
It is not that difficult to comply with the regulations for importing prescription medications into the US. If you follow the rules, your journey will go without a hitch. For the sake of convenience, be sure to include all required paperwork, including doctor’s notes and written prescriptions for any medications.
One thing about flying internationally is that some destinations have medication restrictions. For instance, certain allergy and sinus medications are not allowed in Japan.
Before flying to any country, check with the foreign embassy of your destination country to ensure that traveling with medication is permitted.
Have a safe trip!