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Shipping Medicine to Canada

Shipping medicine to Canada can often be a frustratingly complicated process, and even small mistakes can lead to huge delays. The regulations for shipping medicine into


Canada Cross Border Freight
March 29, 2021
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Shipping medicine to Canada can often be a frustratingly complicated process, and even small mistakes can lead to huge delays. The regulations for shipping medicine into Canada have been steadily tightening over time. And yet, it can be hard to resist breaking into the lucrative industry. The U.S. pharmaceutical industry generated over USD$55 billion in exports just in 2018 alone! 

Shipping medicine to Canada requires importers to follow strict guidelines in order to clear Canadian customs. This means securing a site license, DIN, and label approval from Health Canada, as well as ensuring that all shipments meet the set quality standard. 

What is Health Canada?

What is Health Canada?

Health Canada is the department of government that regulates the import of pharmaceuticals and other health-related products. It is also responsible for ensuring compliance with all health-related laws, and has many other responsibilities besides just regulating medicine and medical devices. 

Health Canada is also responsible for:

  • Workplace hazardous materials information
  • Food inspection
  • Public health
  • Health research
  • Medicine prices
  • Pest management regulation
  • Consumer product safety
  • Environmental and workplace health
  • Public health education

If you are a drug manufacturer who is going to be shipping medicine to Canada, you are going to need to understand the guidelines and regulations set in place by the Health Canada department. One thing Health Canada is very stringent on is proper labeling and packaging for any pharmaceuticals or health-related products that want entry into Canada. This particular topic will be addressed later in the article.

Exporter vs Non-Resident Importer

Shipping medicine to Canada can be quite a different process depending on whether you are just an exporter, or if you’re a non-resident importer as well. 

If you are a regular exporter, you would only have to worry about the product itself, and getting it to the border. This includes correct labeling, safe transport, and good communication with the importer on when the shipment would be ready for them to pick up. The rest of the process would become the importer’s responsibility.

If you are a non-resident importer, however, you would act like the exporter and the importer of record at the same time. That means that you would be responsible for labeling and transport to the border, but you would also have to manage the customs clearance process and arrange shipping on the Canadian side of the border.

Being a non-resident importer can be a lot of added responsibility, but it can also give you a lot more control over the process. Additionally, by taking up the importing responsibilities, you can offer your customers an easier buying experience. However, if the responsibility is too much to bear, you could still become a non-resident importer anyway with the help of a good third-party logistics company. 

Getting Medicine through Canadian Customs ClearanceGetting Medicine through Canadian Customs Clearance

Customs clearance can be a difficult process to understand, especially when dealing with a tightly regulated commodity in an unfamiliar country. Even if you understand the basics of shipping into Canada, the strict regulations on medicine make it difficult for companies to get involved. However, with just a little instruction, you could be well on your way to doing business in Canada.

Site License

Every single person involved in the process of handling medications must have a valid site license for the location in which the medication will be handled. This includes manufacturers, packagers, labelers, and importers. It is unlawful to handle medications for sale without having a site license.

For medications being imported, the importer of record would need to have a site license to verify that the foreign manufacturer meets the Canadian regulations and quality standards. 

Applicants for site licenses will need to include specific information on their application, like:

  • The contact info for the applicant
  • What processes the applicant will be responsible for
  • The address of the building in which the processes will be conducted
  • The address of the building in which the product will be stored
  • A report from quality assurance personnel to demonstrate compliant facilities and equipment

Information can be filled out in the Site License Application (SLA) Form, and when applicable, the Designated Party Authorization (DPA) Form

Drug Identification Number

A Drug Identification Number (DIN) is a special code assigned to all prescription and over-the-counter medications in Canada. It is assigned once the medication has been evaluated by Health Canada to be effective and safe for use. 

The DIN identifies a number of key features about a specific medication:

  • The manufacturer
  • The product name
  • The active ingredients
  • The strength of those active ingredients
  • The form of the medication
  • The method of administration

When shipping medications to Canada, you will need to ensure that you have the correct DIN for the product. If any of the factors listed above are altered, like if it was a different dosage of the same medicine or if the method of administration was changed from an injectable to pill, then the DIN would no longer apply and it would be treated as a new medicine.

If you are shipping a new medication to Canada that is not already on the market, then the process for approval is far lengthier. Not only would you need to apply for a DIN, but you would also need to include a Notice of Compliance (NOC) in order to make it to the Canadian market. More information on applying for review is available on the Health Canada website


When labeling medicine for sale in Canada, you will need to ensure that your labels are compliant with all the regulations. Under no circumstances should any label be false, remotely misleading, or deceptive in any way, especially not to give the product a more positive perception among consumers. Failure to follow basic labeling guidelines also constitutes as being misleading. 

The principal display should include:

  • The brand of the drug product
  • The common name of the drug
  • The standard for the drug
  • A guarantee of sterility
  • The symbol corresponding to the drug’s schedule
  • The DIN

Other labels should include:

  • The names of the manufacturer and/or distributor
  • The lot number
  • The expiration date
  • Directions for use
  • A list of the ingredients used
  • Net amount in weight or quantity
  • A list of preservatives used

Additionally, all labels must be in both French and English.

Shipping Requirements for Medicine to Canada

Shipping requirements for medicine to Canada

As anyone who has even the most simple of OTC medicine in their bathroom cabinets, pharmaceuticals can see reduced efficacy or be rendered completely ineffective if not stored in the appropriate way. The following guidelines might not be put forth by the Canadian government but are definitely essential in making sure your customers get the most potent version of the medication they require. 

Like any country, Canada is not going to accept medicine that has spoiled or expired due to improper storage methods during transit. Therefore, it is the responsibility of the company exporting the medicine to Canada and also the transport company chosen as a partner to ensure this doesn’t occur.

While there is no one universal temperature for all medicine to be kept at, most medicines respond well to being stored at 59 to 77 degrees Fahrenheit (15 to 25 degrees Celsius). A medicine such as the antibiotic Amoxicillin can be kept as low as 52 degrees Fahrenheit (11 degrees Celsius) without spoiling. On the opposite end, 86 degrees Fahrenheit (30 degrees Celsius) is the known cutoff where no medicine should be stored. Extended exposure at that temperature or above can lead to it having to be discarded.

Since Canada sees a wide range of temperatures, especially depending on the season, your medicine may require a temperature-controlled truck to make sure there isn’t any loss during transit. This is also why ordering medicine through the mail, no matter which side of the border you’re on, can be a dicey proposition.

Packaging for Shipping Medicine to Canada

The previous section talked about proper storage methods and temperatures during the shipping of medicine. But besides thinking about and preparing the pharmaceuticals as far as the temperature goes, it’s also very helpful to be mindful of doing everything you can to help reduce the likelihood of the medicine being damaged because of lax packaging.

Just so there’s no confusion, it’s not a matter of if you put that Tylenol in a strong enough plastic bottle — it’s that those bottles are packaged in a way to protect your investment during the actual transit portion of their path to Canada. So for medicine that doesn’t require special accommodations, sturdy, sealed corrugated cardboard boxes should do the trick. These will be stackable and also provide ample protection 

For temperature-sensitive medicines, this can include using temperature-controlled packaging (TPC). This phrasing applies to anything that regulates the conditions in which the pharmaceuticals are traveling under. It can be packing peanuts or foam to insulate the medicine and protect it from the bumps of the road. 

Some medicine might need to be completely shipped in a Styrofoam container with dry ice or a gel pack, on top of being in a refrigerated truck, to keep it very cold. For medicine that comes in liquid form that could be prone to leakage occurring in transit, waterproof plastic packaging and a cooler or cardboard box lined with absorptive material can be used.

Shipping Natural Health Productsshipping natural health products

When shipping natural health products such as vitamins, teas, and other natural remedies, you might assume that the process is easier—but you’d be wrong. Natural health products are treated very similarly to over-the-counter medicine and require a lot of the same attention from importers and customs officers.

The only thing that really differs is that the product will require a Natural Product Number (NPN) instead of a DIN. Otherwise, you can expect to have to go through all the steps you would if you were importing regular over-the-counter medication.

Get Shipping Help from R+L Global Logistics

Shipping medicine to Canada doesn’t have to be complicated! With R+L Global Logistics, you can have your freight delivered temperature-controlled and expedited to the border, where our trusted Canadian partners will pick it up to finish the job. 

You wouldn’t have to worry about anything, since R+L Global Logistics’ real-time tracking solutions give you complete visibility from start to finish. We can help you clear customs in Canada and also be in compliance with any regulations Health Canada can throw at you.

Some additional freight shipping services R+L Global Logistics are able to offer to its customers include:

  • Refrigerated or temperature-controlled shipping
  • Expedited shipping
  • Customs consulting and broker services 

If you have medicine to ship, R+L Global Logistics can get it there quickly, safely, and for the best price, to ensure you get the best value for your money. To start shipping medicine to Canada, give us a call at (855) 915-0573 to get a free quote. 

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6 comments on “Shipping Medicine to Canada”

  1. Good morning,

    We have 2 OTCs and 2 NHPs that we would like to import into Canada.
    Please can you contact me so we can explain our current situation to you and see what services you can offer us to get our sites/products licensed by Health Canada.

    Kind regards,


  2. Hi I am wondering if I can send some over-the-counter medicine into Canada to a friend? The medicine would include Afrin, Tylenol migraine, Motrin, etc.… It would all be over the counter. He lives remotely on an island north of Saskatoon. He’s having terrible allergies and I told him I would try to send some things to him. Please advise if this is OK. Thank you so much. I live in Worthington Minnesota/USA

  3. My daughter who lives in Ontario has asked me to mail from Children’s Tylenol and Infant Tylenol to her since she can’t find any of the shelves where she lives. Is this legal? It’s NOT for resale. It’s NOT a prescription drug.

  4. My daughter-in-law who lives in Ontario has asked me to mail her some children’s Tylenol and Infant Tylenol since they are unable to find it anywhere.Can I mail this to Canada without violating any regulations? If this is allowed what do I need to enclose in the package to prevent a lengthy delay at Customs?

  5. What a wonderful service thank you !! And do you do monthly personal amounts pick up sandiego transport to northern British colimbis

  6. Hello,

    We manufacture non-prescription over the counter drugs in United states, they are FDA registered with valid NDC numbers, now we would like to market these drugs in Canada, but not familiar with Canada health regulations.

    Could you please contact us at your convenience.

    Thank you

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