Are Canadian Pharmacy Sites Safe and Legal Online Pharmacies?

Updated on April 17, 2023

The average American citizen invests about $1200 in prescription drugs every year. Those prescriptions help people with everything from heart disease to fighting cancer.

The expense that’s involved in maintaining one’s health through drugs puts millions of people in a precarious situation. They need to decide between burning through what little money they have and investing in their well-being.

Fortunately, the growing popularity of legal online pharmacies based in Canada has made it so people of low to average incomes don’t have to compromise. Chances are, you’ve heard about the trend of Americans getting their drugs from Canada but still have questions.

What’s the Canadian advantage when it comes to drugs? Is getting drugs abroad legal? How can you be sure that you’re doing business with a safe international pharmacy?

Below, we answer all of those questions and more.

Why Canadian Pharmacies?

America is well-regarded for its outstanding advancements in healthcare technology and pharmaceutical science. Why then is purchasing prescriptions from online pharmacies in Canada becoming so popular?

Lower Prices

Canada has negotiated costs with pharmaceutical producers that lock in low prices for their citizens. The country also has high taxes that allow the government to subsidize healthcare in a big way. Those two factors are a recipe for outstanding drug rates that Americans who pay for prescriptions out of pocket find very enticing.

Canadian Pharmacies Are Close to Several US Cities

Canada is America’s neighbor to the north and as such, many major US cities sit just a couple of hours away from the nearest Canadian pharmacy. That coupled with the ease in which US and Canadian citizens can cross each other’s borders has made it simple for people to go on prescription runs.

Shipping of Canadian Drugs Is More Accessible Than Ever

The major gray area when it comes to buying prescriptions from legal online pharmacies abroad is shipping. More pharmacies have become open to international shipping in recent years. That has made it possible for non-northern Americans to enjoy access to affordable drugs.

Are You Legally Allowed to Buy Drugs Abroad?

You now understand why buying drugs from Canada has become a common practice among cash-conscious Americans. You may still be wondering if doing so is legal though. The answer to that question is complicated.

Buying drugs in Canada with a prescription for personal use and driving those drugs back across the border isn’t likely to get you in trouble. Shipping controlled substances, however, violates federal law and carries steep penalties.

In reality, federal controlled substance laws are not in place to keep you from saving money on your medication. Despite that, because of how broadly they’re written, you could find yourself in hot water.

Consult with a legal professional and your doctor to decide on whether or not importing your prescriptions is a road that you’d like to go down.

How Can You Discern a Legal Online Pharmacy From a Bad One?

If you’ve resolved to shop for prescriptions online, it’s important that you know how to tell a legitimate pharmacy from a bad one. Here are a few things to watch out for that can help you decide who to do business with.

Requests for Documentation

No legitimate pharmacy is going to let you buy drugs without identification materials and a prescription. If you’re able to get through your purchase without a request for those documents, buy elsewhere. If possible, you should also report these pharmacies to relevant authorities.

Online Reviews

Word of mouth recommendations are a great way to build confidence in a pharmacy. Check popular review aggregators like Yelp or Google to see if the pharmacy you’re considering has feedback. If it doesn’t, do a deep dive into their brand name to see if you can turn up any information on them online that vouches for their excellence.

Seals of Approval

There are accreditation bodies that offer online pharmacies seals that communicate legitimacy. For example, CIPA (Canadian International Pharmacy Association) gives its seal of approval to pharmacies that they’ve vetted. Recipient pharmacies are all operating in line with CIPA’s high standards.

Head over to a pharmacy’s “about” page to get more information on their safety and quality assurance accreditation.

Quality Assurance Databases

The issue with seals of accreditation is that anybody can copy and paste them onto their website. That’s why it’s imperative that you run online pharmacies through database checks. has an accreditation checker. That tool allows you to insert any pharmacy URL to see if they’re operating legally. CIPA also has an accreditation tool that you should use for any site that’s claiming CIPA accreditation.

Is Buying Prescriptions From Legal Online Pharmacies Abroad Worth It?

After reading everything that we’ve shared with you on legal online pharmacies, the question that remains is whether or not buying prescriptions abroad is worth it.

That depends.

Do you have good health insurance? Does that insurance heavily subsidize your prescriptions? If you answered “yes”, you’re not likely to save money by buying Canadian drugs.

If you’re not insured or under-insured though, legal implications aside, you’ll enjoy much better prices buying drugs internationally. That means more money in your pocket and a higher quality of life.

Health is vital to our lives but hard to wrap our heads around at times. We aim to make understanding things a whole lot easier. Would you like additional information on maintaining a healthy lifestyle? If you would check out the newest content in our digital publication.

Throughout the year, our writers feature fresh, in-depth, and relevant information for our audience of 40,000+ healthcare leaders and professionals. As a healthcare business publication, we cover and cherish our relationship with the entire health care industry including administrators, nurses, physicians, physical therapists, pharmacists, and more. We cover a broad spectrum from hospitals to medical offices to outpatient services to eye surgery centers to university settings. We focus on rehabilitation, nursing homes, home care, hospice as well as men’s health, women’s heath, and pediatrics.