I take a lot of different prescription drugs, which require renewal at different times, or may require new prescriptions. One of these is a Class III controlled substance. How do I get new prescriptions or refills in Canada, or should I try to make sure I have all I require before I leave? My US pharmacy may not be willing to refill early, especially the controlled substance.

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    For travel, physicians can write a limited quantity prescription, and some pharmacies will short-fill (where you currently have the prescription), giving you enough for your trip.
    – Giorgio
    Commented Jul 31, 2018 at 23:02
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    My insurance happily covers three month prescriptions (although they have to go through their preferred mail-order pharmacy). Scheduled meds are a bit harder, but we were able to get a Schedule II medication filled for a two month supply without too much trouble for a long vacation. Talk to your doctor, explain the situation, and chances are they'll be able to help you out.
    – ceejayoz
    Commented Aug 1, 2018 at 2:14

2 Answers 2


You likely won't be able to fill the prescriptions in Canada without visiting a Canadian doctor (which will be at your cost, as you're not covered by our public health system) and obtaining new prescriptions. Mind, some drugs are over-the-counter here and are by prescription in the U.S. (e.g. 222s, which are ASA + codeine).

Ensure you not only have the medications in their original packaging (as received from your pharmacy, that is), but that you have a copy of your doctor's prescription with you as well. The border agents have the right to inspect that paperwork to determine that the prescriptions are indeed yours.

Usually, if you will be traveling out of the country, you can renew prescriptions early (I have done this myself in the past). You may need to show your travel plans. Talk to your pharmacist sooner rather than later.

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    US pharmacies keep original paper prescriptions, and many prescriptions these days are transmitted electronically from the prescriber to the pharmacy. The closest thing a traveler could get to the doctor's prescription is probably the label on the medicine.
    – phoog
    Commented Jul 31, 2018 at 23:19
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    In addition to the labeled container, current US pharmacy practice is to give the patient/customer a separate printout of the RX information. This might be reassuring to uniformed people at international borders. Commented Jul 31, 2018 at 23:45
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    @David yes, of course. I usually throw that away without giving it a second thought. Perhaps I should stop doing that.
    – phoog
    Commented Jul 31, 2018 at 23:50
  • @phoog, take a look when you have a chance: on my prescriptions, much of the separate printout looks to me like additional labels. One thinks of repackaging in smaller containers... Commented Jul 31, 2018 at 23:52
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    @David do NOT repackage prescription drugs when traveling. ALWAYS bring the original packaging with the original labels. Otherwise you might get in trouble for what looks like possession of a controlled substance without a prescription (even if you did have labels).
    – jwenting
    Commented Aug 1, 2018 at 10:04

I'm not from the US, but Europe, and in a similar situation (several prescription and other meds, including some that may be problematic in some countries).

Just get your doctor and/or pharmacy to get you a refill for the duration of your trip, and for the controlled substances a letter stating that yes, you really were prescribed those and have them for personal use only.

Both doctors, pharmacists, and border agents deal with such situations on a regular basis so it should not be something they're not used to for any of them.

Where you'd have to be careful is when taking OTC meds like Aleve or Voltaren, which might actually be illegal to own without a prescription in some countries (I know Voltaren tablets are prescription only in Canada, Voltaren cream is not, go figure). Last year a European tourist was arrested and thrown in prison in Egypt for trying to bring a few boxes of Aleve across the border for a sick family member in an Egyptian hotel. They were considered illegal drugs and the traveler arrested for trying to enter the country with controlled substances without a license. I don't think you'll get into that kind of trouble on your trip as long as you have proper paperwork showing that yes, they're your drugs and on a prescription, but with freely sold stuff from the supermarket it can happen.

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    You get that kind of trouble if you are trying to bring in prescribed marijuana (that's what Border Patrol learned me)
    – J_rite
    Commented Aug 1, 2018 at 11:41
  • @Jungkook that's not medication, it's an illegal drug. Different laws entirely.
    – jwenting
    Commented Aug 1, 2018 at 12:34
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    in some US states it is a legal medicine if prescribed
    – J_rite
    Commented Aug 1, 2018 at 12:54
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    @jwenting That wasn't a tourist; it was the wife of someone living in Egypt. And it wasn't just a few boxes of naproxin; it was some quantity naproxin and 290 tablets of tramadol (a pseudo-opioid). That is, unless this happened twice recently.
    – Yakk
    Commented Aug 1, 2018 at 13:11
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    @Jungkook The US is a peculiar place. While some states have legalized cannabis, it is a federally controlled and restricted product, and when you cross the border, you're under U.S. jurisdiction in priority to that of the state you're entering. On the other hand, Canada is legalizing it federally so importing it (within the constraints the law will allow by then) will be perfectly legal. Commented Aug 1, 2018 at 15:03

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