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Clinical Trials 101

Purchasing A Drug From Outside The United States

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If a drug you are interested in is only available outside of the United States, you may travel to a foreign country to be treated, or you can obtain the medications by mail.

Keep in mind that drugs purchased abroad have not been subjected to the rigorous standards of the FDA. Be particularly cautious. If the drug is still being studied in the country of origin, look at the patient safeguards used in the trial. After you've done your research, share what you find with your doctor and get his or her opinion before saying "yes."

There are no limits on American citizens who leave the country for treatment. 

If you want to have the drugs shipped to you in the United States, keep in mind that it is not legal to import drugs that have not been approved by the FDA. While you should check the current FDA guidelines before making a purchase, the FDA guidelines permit small quantities such as an up to three month supply for one person when the drug will be used under the supervision of a licensed doctor for a serious condition for which no other effective treatment is available. Note that the FDA guidlines are only suggestions. A particular inspector may not permit the drug to be imported.

If you have health insurance, check it to find out if any of the costs associated with a drug purchased outside the U.S. are covered. Don't be surprised if they are not.

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