Importing drugs for personal use is legal. It's not even smuggling. It's legal import. I am not talking about narc. I am talking about legal normal drugs like viagra or insulin.
Purchase of the drug for the purpose of selling is illegal under the pretext of customer safety I bet.
So why don't americans just access tons of pharmacy online where people can buy cheaper drugs from oversea?
I have an educated guess.
The customer is not the one buying the drugs. The insurance, or HMO, or government, buy the drugs. Some drugs are prescription only and you probably can't ask doctors for generic equivalent.
I also suspected that Doctors can get his licensed revoked if he prescribe cheaper generic drugs. I wonder if anyone can confirm. Say a drug cost $200. Can a doctor recommend or prescribe cheaper drugs that cost $10 from an online pharma?
Also if you're insured you have no profit incentive to buy drugs from Mexico. If you're an insurance, you also can't buy drugs from Mexico because that's illegal.
If I were pharma lobbyist, I would lobby government to ensure that as much as possible, all people are "insured" through various government program or have mandatory insurance.
Then pharma companies can jack up prices without having to worry with competition from outside of US jurisdiction.
So, a small number of people that can't afford cheap international drug price is then used as justification to jack up prices for everyone.
That's what I think is happening.
Note: From comments, importing drugs from oversea may be illegal but minimally enforced. In general I have not heard anyone going to jail because they import stuffs for personal uses.
In general, you risk having 5% of your packaging seized. If you can show you have prescription, you probably can still get it.
Here is some info from Wikipedia.
It is illegal to purchase controlled substances from an overseas
pharmacy. A person purchasing a controlled substance from such a
pharmacy may be violating several federal laws that carry stiff
Any package containing prescription drugs may be seized by US Customs and Border Protection. The package may be held and eventually
returned to the sender if the addressee does not respond and provide
proof that they are allowed to receive these drugs (e.g., a valid
prescription). In practice, the number of packages containing
prescription drugs sent to United States on a daily basis far exceeds
CBP's capabilities to inspect them. In the past, packages often
passed through customs even if they were not sent from Canada or
otherwise didn't meet the requirements of section 844 of 21 USC. Until
recently, about 5 percent of prescription drug packages sent from
Canada were being seized.
DEA and FDA generally do not target consumers unless drugs are imported in large quantities (suggesting intent to distribute) or
represent a perceived danger to public health (opiates, amphetamines).
Rarely, drug importation laws are enforced on the local level. For example, in June 2005 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, a number of customers
of online pharmacies were arrested by local law enforcement officers
and charged with possession of a controlled substance without
The act of importation of the controlled substance from overseas violates 21 USC, Section 952 (up to 5 years in prison and $250,000
fine for importation of non-narcotic Schedule III, IV, or V drugs;
possibly more for narcotics and Schedule I and II drugs). The act of
simple possession of a controlled substance without a valid
prescription violates 21 USC, Section 844 (up to 1 year in prison and
$1,000 fine). FDA does not recognize online prescriptions; for a
prescription to be valid there must be a face-to-face relationship
between the patient and the health-care professional prescribing the
drug. What exactly constitutes a "face-to-face" relationship is
considered by many online pharmacies to be a subjective definition
that would allow them to operate as an adjunct to the patient's own
physician if the patient submits medical records documenting a
condition for which the requested medication is deemed appropriate for
treatment. Sections 956 and 1301 provide exemptions for travelers who
bring small quantities of controlled substances in or out of the
country in person, but not by mail.
Importation of an unapproved prescription drug (not necessarily a controlled substance) violates 21 USC, Section 301(aa), even for
personal use. The Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act does allow for the
importation of drug products for unapproved new drugs for which there
is no approved American version. However, this allowance does not
allow for the importation of foreign-made versions of U.S. approved
The law further specifies that enforcement should be focused on cases in which the importation by an individual poses a threat to
public health, and discretion should be exercised to permit
individuals to make such importations in circumstances in which the
prescription drug or device imported does not appear to present an
unreasonable risk to the individual.
It is also illegal to import non-approved drugs (21 USC sections 331(d) and 355(a)); however, FDA policies suggest that, under certain
circumstances, patients may be allowed to keep these drugs.
Individual U.S. states may implement their own laws regulating importation, possession, and trafficking in prescription drugs and/or
controlled substances.
For several years, the states of Nevada, Minnesota, Illinois and Wisconsin have run official state programs to help their residents
order lower-cost drugs from abroad to save money.