How do I get meds from Canada that are no longer sold in the US?
February 26, 2019 9:07 PM   Subscribe

I want to use something besides steroid inhaler or monteleukast to control my asthma, because the side effects suck. But the only way to get these are to go out of the country. How do I get my doctor to write a prescription for a medication that isn't available here? Is that even possible? Any pro tips for getting someone to achieve buy-in?

YANAD, YANMD. Okay, maybe it would be kinda helpful if you were a doctor, but I'll pretend you're not.

Background: I have asthma. Steroids (the gold standard in the US for long-term asthma control) wreak havoc on my HPA axis/metabolism/immune fx even at the smallest available dose. I've had opportunistic infections, gained 20 lbs despite a rigorous diet and exercise schedule, and am depressed in ways that go beyond my usual low-level meh-ness.

Pretty much everything besides steroids and monteleukast (only works for 30% of the population and I'm not that 30%) have been discontinued in the US due to financial (not safety) reasons. It's not that these older meds were deemed unacceptable--when available, they were OK'ed by the FDA for this use and all that. But they just aren't available here anymore.

These other medications are standard acceptable alternatives actively produced and used in generic form in many other countries, such as Canada, UK, Australia.

I've talked about it with my doctor, who is committed to only using steroid based inhalers and monteleukast as preventatives. And when pushed to consider alternatives, she is also committed to only using things that are available in the US, even if previously OK with the FDA. I will be seeking a second opinion/transfer, simply because I've been telling this doctor about my quality of life issues for about 2 years now, and she just doesn't care enough to try anything new.

I'd like to approach the second-opinion/transfer with this idea. These medications are available north of the border. I would rather not do the whole medical tourism thing and try to travel to Canada to get a script and then fill it. Technically, because these medications were OKed by the FDA and are no longer available in the US, I believe they fall into a slightly legal loophole for import for personal use.

My question is--do you have any experience like this? How did you talk to a doctor about it? Do you have any tips for getting a doctor on board? Are there things that would prevent a doctor from prescribing a medication not available in the US that I might not be taking into consideration? Should I just bite the bullet and try and make an appointment with an asthma specialist in the north?
posted by executive_dysfuncti0n to Health & Fitness (7 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Canadian pharmacists now only fill prescriptions from Canadian doctors. I'd also suggest getting legal advice on whether these medications can be legally imported in the US and what papers you might need to import them as an individual. It would be far from ideal to go through with your trip and have the medication seized at the border.
posted by scruss at 5:04 AM on February 27, 2019 [2 favorites]

Do you have specific medicines in mind? You might talk to a pharmacist to see if there are similar medications that are still around or that they could order, as an option you can present to your doctor.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 6:26 AM on February 27, 2019

Although you haven't said which drugs you're talking about, you could check out
posted by JimN2TAW at 6:27 AM on February 27, 2019 [1 favorite] has never asked for a script for my cat's asthma medicine.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 6:58 AM on February 27, 2019

Best answer: Technically, because these medications were OKed by the FDA and are no longer available in the US, I believe they fall into a slightly legal loophole for import for personal use.

Get legal advice, but if they aren't scheduled substances or otherwise banned, I don't believe there's any impediment to your bringing them back across the border, FDA-approved or not. Requiring a prescription is a control on sale, not on possession. (Of course, any time you take any sort of medication across the border, there's the potential for hassle.)

E.g., ketoconazole 2% shampoo is only available by prescription in the U.S., but is OTC in Canada. I buy it there regularly.
posted by praemunire at 8:58 AM on February 27, 2019 [1 favorite]

Theophylline=older med, not steroid, available in the US
posted by eglenner at 4:25 PM on February 27, 2019

Response by poster: I use symbicort now. The issue with theophylline is that it apparently has to be monitored through frequent blood testing, which is not a step I want to take. The other common alternative, intal, has to be taken 4 times a day.

I’m thinking of nedocromil and/or foradil (the latter was black boxed after a clinical trial went bad with another drug in the same class—but the meta analyses since then strongly question the relationship between a similar medication in the same class and increased fatalities, which was small to start). Foradil is the same thing as perforomist, which is marketed here in the US for COPD. But my doctor is a nope on that because the lowest dose of the latter is twice that of what was accepted for asthma use—I’m okay with that.

I will take a look at the legal particulars. It sounds like the ideal would be to establish a connection with a specialist north of the border and coordinate from there. Thank you!
posted by executive_dysfuncti0n at 4:41 PM on February 27, 2019

« Older How to repair this vintage sofa   |   Arizona trail runners & hikers - your wisdom... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.