Next April I will move to US (from Brazil) for a one-year exchange program. I am diabetic and insulin dependent. I intend to bring with me sufficient amount of insulin needed for the whole period abroad. My question is if there is any restriction on the amount of insulin that I can bring to US.

Thank you.

  • Why not just buy it in the states when you need more?
    – Gagravarr
    Jan 18, 2016 at 18:02
  • Hi @Gagravarr. Unfortunately, in US, they cost 10 times more than here in Brazil. It will make the program financially unfeasible. Jan 18, 2016 at 18:41
  • 4
    What health insurance will you have? You should try to find out if they'll cover insulin and if so, how much it will be.
    – mkennedy
    Jan 19, 2016 at 3:27
  • 3
    I don't have a source, but I remember reading something about 3-months supply allowed with prescription. You might have issues with the customs. In any case, the insulin costs ton, but insurance will pay for it. If you don't have a medical insurance and you have a chronic medical condition - stay out of the US.
    – littleadv
    Jan 19, 2016 at 7:43
  • Unfortunately being in USA is not worth it if you need medical assistance and are not in a good financial position
    – user70926
    Jan 20, 2016 at 5:07

2 Answers 2


I empathise with your need to do this here, because the US medical system is very expensive.

The government "advises" people coming to the US to bring no more than a 90 day supply. You also need to bring a note from your doctor, and everything needs to be in the original containers. I'm not sure about the rules concerning needles in carry-on luggage, but I think most of them should be checked. The rule is "only bring enough for your own personal use", but apparently a year's worth of insulin would exceed this even if it really is for your personal use.

Prescription medications should be in their original containers with the doctor's prescription printed on the container. It is advised that you travel with no more than personal use quantities, a rule of thumb is no more than a 90 day supply. If your medications or devices are not in their original containers, you must have a copy of your prescription with you or a letter from your doctor. A valid prescription or doctors note is required on all medication entering the U.S.

Source: https://help.cbp.gov/app/answers/detail/a_id/67/~/traveling-with-or-mailing-medications-and-medical-devices,-such-as-needles-or

As to how to save money on your medicine, perhaps you can go home in the middle of your visit, and bring back 3 more months? I know that only covers you for 6 months, but it's better than 3. In any case, you will need medical insurance, and I think you will probably need to get your medicine in the US unless you can go back home every 3 months.


Both syringes and insulin vials are officially permitted as carry-on. It would defeat the purpose with medication of this nature if you can't bring it on your person.

If I were you, I'd divide my medication between all my suitcases, and bring as much with me as needed for a year. Easier to apologize than ask for permission. The 3 month rule is arbitrary, and kind of goes back to what insurance companies cover. Customs has the principle of personal use and it sounds like you have a good story to convince the custom's people that this is indeed for personal use. Besides, there's no street market for insulin. It's available OTC in any pharmacy. Cheaper with insurance, yes, but readily available without a prescription.

(I know this is a late reply, but thought I'd give another, and more accurate perspective for others)

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