Prescribing through Canadian pharmacies: Is it legal?

Published on September 01, 2002
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It's a tempting prospect for some pet owners—having their pet's prescription filled at low cost through a pharmacy they found on the Internet. Some pet owners have discovered Canadian pharmacies that cater exclusively to pet medications. These pharmacies sometimes claim on their Web sites that U.S. veterinarians can legally purchase prescription medications from Canadian pharmacies.

Members of the AVMA staff have been receiving inquiries from U.S. veterinarians whose clients ask them to authorize prescriptions and obtain drugs filled by Canadian pharmacies. The veterinarians call because they are concerned about the legality of this practice.

The AVMA position statement on Internet pharmacies includes the following recommendation: "Use of drugs of foreign origin that lack FDA approval generally is not permitted."

The National Association of Boards of Pharmacy believes that a veterinarian's best response is to alternatively offer a written prescription to be filled at a U.S. pharmacy of the client's choice, and not to get involved in purchasing drugs from Canada. It is the association's understanding that virtually all Canadian pharmacies that ship prescription drugs to U.S. consumers violate U.S. law. Such drugs are generally unapproved, are labeled incorrectly, and/or are dispensed without a valid prescription.

To clarify the legality of such practices, an NABP committee recently recommended that the association explore the importation of prescription medications. The focus will be on current practices of Canadian pharmacies and wholesalers that provide prescription medications to U.S. citizens.

Some state pharmacy boards contacted by AVMA staff have indicated they believe an international pharmacy would have to be licensed as a nonresident pharmacy.