Last updated on November 8th, 2018
Imagine a child has just visited for the weekend, but after returning home they realize they left their medicine behind. What should the parent do? They might ask themselves, “Could I just send the prescription through the mail?”
The short answer is no. Mailing prescriptions is illegal and can result in jail time and massive fines.
Why is Mailing Prescriptions Illegal?
Regardless of your intentions, mailing prescriptions can break local and federal drug trafficking laws. Even if you only want to help your friend or loved one access their medicine, you are, in effect, unlawfully transporting drugs.
Mailing prescriptions also constitutes a health risk. Unregulated transport of medication can compromise the prescription itself and render it ineffective or dangerous to take.
Distributing prescriptions in Virginia requires a license. The Drug Control Act of the Virginia code outlines how drugs can be made, dispensed, and transported in Virginia. Any private individual caught distributing prescription drugs through the mail, even if just mailing them to a family member, is breaking these codes.
Further, Virginia makes laws in accordance with the federal code. Under Title 21 of the United States code, engaging in the delivery of prescription medication through the mail is illegal. If you are trying to send prescription medicine between states, or even simply across Virginia, you will be breaking federal laws.
The penalties for this crime include high fines and even jail time. Knowingly engaging in the distribution of prescription medication can result in up to 10 years of incarceration and/or fines of up to $250,000.
Below are a few common questions related to this process.
Who can mail prescription medications?
The only entities that can mail prescription medications are those registered with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). The most common groups that register are drug distributors, manufacturers, pharmacists, and licensed medical practitioners.
What should I do instead?
Your best bet is to plan ahead. Before your children go to college, make sure their prescriptions are transferred to a local pharmacy. If you are going on a trip, double check that all your prescriptions are packed.
What about over-the-counter drugs?
Over-the-counter drugs present a different case. For mailing over-the-counter drugs, the final decision of legality often comes down to local statutes, or sometimes acts such as the Poison Prevention Packaging Act, rather than specific federal mailing regulations.
If you are unsure about mailing someone an over the counter medicine, it’s best to first consult the United States Postal Service’s (USPS) list of prohibited materials.
The answer to the question, “Can I send prescriptions through the mail?” is “no.” Do not do it. It is highly illegal on both state and federal levels. Mailing prescriptions can result in serious fines and jail time.
If a prosecutor charges you with sending medicine through the mail, you should contact an experienced criminal attorney immediately. Even if a prosecutor doesn’t throw the book at you for sending some Tylenol in the mail