What Medication Can You Bring to USA?

Pain relief, anti-allergy pills for better sleep and cold medication are some of the most common drugs travellers pack when going abroad. However, before they realize it, they run into problems with the airport officials for bringing certain medications, even in small amount for personal use.

The US Food and Drug Administration’s Division of Drug Information is responsible for all medication bought into the US. When people visit America with medication, the FDA takes charge of the visitor and the medication. Agents of the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), present at US airports, are also involved in the process.

The FDA ensures that the drug entering the country is for a serious condition, the treatment for which is not available in the US. The drug should not have the possibility of posing a health risk.

In the event of non-compliance with the FDA’s regulations for allowed drugs, the traveller could even be deported or sent to jail, in the worst cases. So, it is crucial that you understand the restrictions on allowed medicines when traveling to the United States. You can check the customs and import restrictions for this.

Rules for Bringing Medication to America

People travelling to the US with medication should carry a valid doctor’s prescription (written in English), which should say that the medicine is a continuation of the treatment being received by the traveller.

Remember to pack all medicines in their original packaging. If the pills are in a bottle, it should have instructions clearly printed on it. You should also know that every state in America has its own laws regarding the labeling of prescription medicines. It is best to check the state laws beforehand.

In case the medicines are not in their original packaging, don’t forget to carry a doctor’s original prescription. Also, obtain a letter from your doctor, explaining the medical condition and why you need the specific medication.

In case of over-the-counter medication, make sure they are on the approved list and not prohibited in the country. The reason the FDA has so many restrictions is to safeguard the health of people, ensuring that the medication is safe, effective and are manufactured correctly.

It is advisable not to carry more medicines that you would require during your stay in the US. In fact, the FDA recommends that visitors not carry more than 3 months’ supply. In case you are staying for longer, it should be couriered or mailed to you. The package should include the following documents:

  • A letter from your doctor
  • A copy of your visa and passport
  • A copy of the prescription (written in English)

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Stay Cautious of the Active Ingredients

There are certain active ingredients that are banned in America. There are restrictions regarding the overall total amount of active ingredients a traveller can bring into the US. Also, make sure you carry documents that indicate the generic and chemical names of the active ingredients.

Recently, the US FDA has banned 24 antibacterial active ingredients from use in over-the-counter healthcare antiseptics. This includes triclosan and several iodine-based compounds.

You should also know that different agencies have different requirements or jurisdictions over a medicine. Before you plan your travel to the US, it is advisable to check with each agency if you wish to carry medication.

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Mani Karthik

About the Author

Mani Karthik

Ex “NRI” and Founder of the “Back to India” movement. I share my experience about immigrating to USA here.