Can U.S. doctors and pharmacies send or transfer prescriptions to Canada?

Answered by Shivam Patel, PharmD, BSPS, RPh | Posted March 14, 2019
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The answer is yes and no. Canadian pharmacies will require a prescription from an authorized Canadian practitioner before dispensing a prescription drug. However, some Canadian pharmacies work with Canadian practitioners in a manner that facilitates the processing of a valid, U.S. prescription. Basically, the Canadian physician reviews the original U.S. prescription and relevant patient information and issues a Canadian prescription.

Canadian provinces require that pharmacies dispense medications pursuant to a valid prescription authorized by a Canadian practitioner. Therefore, U.S. prescriptions received by a Canadian pharmacy must be approved by a Canadian physician, who issues a Canadian prescription, prior to it being filled. This practice is often referred to as cosigning. We view the cosigning process as an additional review of the patient's health profile by a licensed practitioner to determine the suitability of the recommended treatment. PharmacyChecker-accredited Canadian pharmacies are among those that accept a U.S. prescription that is then approved by a Canadian physician. 

To be clear, a patient or doctor in the U.S. only has to send a prescription. You do not need to worry about finding a Canadian practitioner. The pharmacy will take care of the approval process from there.

Transferring Prescriptions from U.S. Pharmacies to Canadian Pharmacies

Generally, U.S. pharmacies will not transfer your prescription to a Canadian pharmacy. If you decide to buy a medication from a pharmacy in Canada and you have a prescription with a U.S. pharmacy, you'll most likely need to request a new prescription from your provider.

Canadian Prescription Transfer Regulations

Canadian pharmacies are generally not permitted to accept prescription transfers from U.S. pharmacies. Canadian provinces require that pharmacies dispense medications pursuant to a valid prescription authorized by a Canadian practitioner. Therefore, U.S. prescriptions received by a Canadian pharmacy must be approved by a Canadian physician prior to being filled. This requires that the pharmacy receive a health history survey and an original signed prescription, which can be faxed by your doctor or mailed—either by yourself or your doctor on your behalf. Additionally, a licensed pharmacy can work directly with your doctor to facilitate the receipt of the prescription and/or arrange refills when necessary. 

U.S. Prescription Transfer Regulations

Based on various state regulations within the U.S. — although U.S. pharmacies are permitted to transfer prescriptions, including refills, for non-controlled drugs under certain circumstances—transferring prescriptions to foreign pharmacies may not be permitted. 

Finally, even though many states have not explicitly banned transferring U.S. prescriptions to non-U.S. pharmacies, pharmacists may be reluctant to do so because in most cases it remains technically illegal under U.S. federal law to import medication for personal use. 

Interestingly, Texas pharmacists are expressly permitted to fill prescriptions written by Canadian or Mexican Practitioners for non-controlled substances; however, pharmacies are only permitted to transfer authorized refills for those prescription between Texan pharmacies.

More about Texas Pharmacy Laws

More about Drug Importation Laws, Regulations, and Policies

Americans Can Order Prescription Medications from Canadian Online Pharmacies

Millions of Americans have ordered medication from Canada, even though it's technically prohibited. That's because it's legal in Canada for licensed pharmacies, meeting the laws of their providences, to dispensed prescription drugs to Americans.

We recommend that you stick to PharmacyChecker-verified Canadian online pharmacies. Patients use PharmacyChecker.com to compare prices among verified pharmacies. Many people that use our comparison tool find their medications at over an 80% discount vs. the prices they see at their local CVS or Walgreens.

Please know that many Canadian online pharmacies fill your orders with pharmacies outside of Canada. For those that are in the PharmacyChecker Verification Program, the partner pharmacies (not just the ones in Canada) are also verified by PharmacyChecker.

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Local U.S. Pharmacy Savings

Some folks are wary of shopping for their meds online. If you prefer to shop at your local U.S. pharmacy, just scroll to the bottom of your chosen medication's price comparison page. Enter your ZIP Code to find the discounts available in your area. When you choose a pharmacy, click "Print Card for This Pharmacy" and you are all set.

We also offer a search tool for patient assistance programs. Many pharmaceutical companies offer aid with the cost of medications through patient assistance programs.

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Comments
Frankly, I trust Canada more than I do the US FDA. And congratulations on the Nobel Prize in Physics. Fred Banting is beaming.
Recently, quality manufacturers like Sandoz and Mylan have discontinued lorazepam (generic) and I have tried the other generics but they do not work for me. I will have to go back to the brand but can't really afford it but I do not meet the financial requirements for assistance.
I order other drugs online from Canada and others using my UHC insurance but it will not reimburse most brand names including Ativan.
The Canadian pharmacy says they can't ship drugs like Ativan. How can I get Ativan? Online? From another country? Thanks, Dena
"To be clear, a patient or doctor in the U.S. only has to send a prescription. You do not need to worry about finding a Canadian practitioner. The pharmacy will take care of the approval process from there."Nonsense.When I asked at both Jean Coutu and Shoppers Drug Mart in QC and ON they acted like I was crazy. Absolutely will not do it!
Hi John -- This post is specific to international online pharmacies accredited in the PharmacyChecker Verification Program. See list: https://www.pharmacychecker.com/online-pharmacy-ratings/ We see how this post can be confusing so will update it to clarify. Thank you for your comment.
Thank you for replying so quickly!
My 92 yr old father is staying with us in Canada during the Covid19 crisis. He actually lives in New York State. His prescriptions will start to run out in a couple weeks. We will try to get a Canadian physician to somehow cosign the prescriptions I guess. Any suggestions? Thank you.
Hi John-- If you're having trouble working with pharmacies located in Canada, a last-resort solution could be to see a local Canadian doctor to explain your father's medical condition and get a new prescription that can be filled at a Canadian pharmacy. Considering the rapid development of the crisis, perhaps there are waived regulations in Canada that would allow filling an out-of-country prescription directly, but we are unable to confirm this at this time. We wish you and your father all the best. Stay safe.
Thanks for your feedback. Yes, that is more or less what we did. My father called my own doctor, they chatted a bit and my father told him what meds he needed and they then sent the prescriptions to the local pharmacy (who even delivered). Pretty painless once we got the doctor on the phone. All the best.
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