Tax-Deductible Nonprescription Drugs or Supplements

What legally is and isn't tax-deductible can often be confusing. Expenses for professional medical services and prescription drugs are usually tax-deductible.

When it comes to over-the-counter (OTC) medications and supplies, though, it is a gray area. Some items you might think are deductible are not, while other items are but only in certain circumstances.

The IRS rules about tax deductions can change from year to year. It is important to check the list of acceptable deductions annually for changes or updates to the rules.

This article explains the different types of OTC medical expenses that are commonly tax-deductible.

Woman doing her taxes at home
iStock

What Are Medical Expenses?

Medical expenses are things you paid for during the year that relate to the diagnosis, management, treatment, or prevention of disease. This includes physical and mental health conditions and medical issues that affect bodily functions.

Medical services provided by physicians, surgeons, dentists, and other medical professionals are tax-deductible expenses. Medical equipment, supplies, and diagnostic testing are as well.

Health insurance premiums, copays, and transportation to medical appointments are tax-deductible. Qualified long-term care services are deductible, and certain long-term care insurance contracts may also be partially deductible.

Summary

Tax-deductible medical expenses are only items that are used primarily to alleviate or prevent a specific health condition.

Items that are only beneficial to general health, such as vitamins or a vacation, are not tax-deductible.

Tax-Deductible Medical Expenses

Some tax-deductible medical expenses may surprise you. For example, transportation to medical appointments is deductible. This includes bus or train fare and airplane tickets to see specialists. At the same time, childcare costs related to the appointment are not tax-deductible.

Bandages and contact lens solution are tax-deductible. But over-the-counter medications, like pain relievers or laxatives, are not. Vitamins and supplements are not deductible unless recommended by a doctor to treat a health condition, such as iron pills for anemia.

Here is a closer look at what is and what is not tax-deductible.

Tax-Deductible
  • Bandages

  • Breast pumps and supplies

  • Corrective contact lenses and supplies, including saline solution

  • Corrective eyeglasses

  • Crutches

  • Diabetes supplies, including meters and test trips

  • Diapers, only if used due to a medical condition

  • Hearing aids, batteries, maintenance, and repairs

  • Medical conferences for chronic conditions you, your spouse, or a dependent have. Only transportation and entrance fees are deductible.

  • Nutritional supplements your doctor recommends to treat a health condition, such as vitamin D supplements to treat low vitamin D

  • Smoking cessation programs

  • Transportation to AA meetings, if attendance is based on medical advice

  • Transportation to medical appointments

  • Weight-loss programs, only if prescribed by a doctor to treat a condition such as obesity, hypertension, diabetes, or heart disease

Not Tax-Deductible
  • Child care

  • Cosmetic procedures, including hair transplants

  • Diapers not needed for medical reasons

  • Flexible Spending Account purchases

  • Gym memberships and exercise classes

  • Imported medications, unless specifically approved by the Food and Drug Administration for import

  • Maternity clothes

  • Medical marijuana, psilocybin, or other federally controlled substances

  • Non-prescription drugs

  • Nutritional supplements and vitamins taken for general health

  • Smoking cessation aids, like nicotine gum

  • Teeth whitening products

  • Weight-loss programs unless they are recommended to treat a medical condition

  • Weight-loss supplements or meal replacements

Frequently Asked Questions

Are OTC medicines tax-deductible?

No. Only prescription medications are tax-deductible expenses. The only exception is insulin purchased OTC, as long as you have a prescription for it.

What OTC medical supplies are deductible?

Nonprescription items such as bandages, crutches, thermometers, or blood sugar meters and test strips are deductible if they are related to medical care for a health condition. For example, crutches are deductible if you hurt your foot or ankle and the doctor tells you to use crutches.

Is medical marijuana tax deductible?

No. As of 2021, marijuana is still illegal at the federal level. Therefore, it does not qualify as a tax deduction.

Can I deduct medication purchased online?

It depends. Medication purchased online with a prescription can be deducted only if it is purchased through a legal source in the United States.

Medications purchased outside of the U.S. are only tax-deductible if the drug is legal in both the country where it was purchased and the U.S.

Medications imported from another country are not tax-deductible, unless the drugs have been approved by the FDA for import by individuals.

Can I deduct vitamins and supplements from my taxes? 

It depends. For the most part, nutritional supplements, vitamins, herbal supplements, or natural medicines are not tax-deductible expenses. However, vitamins and supplements are deductible when specifically recommended by a medical professional as a treatment for a diagnosed medical condition—for example, iron supplements to treat anemia or vitamin D to treat low vitamin D status.

Are dental care products tax-deductible?

Not usually. Standard dental products, like a toothbrush or toothpaste, are considered personal care items and are not tax-deductible. However, dental products needed to accommodate a physical defect may be tax-deductible, in part, under certain circumstances. The excess cost of the item may be deductible but requires filing a specific form.

Is nicotine replacement therapy deductible?

No. Nicotine is available over the counter and therefore not a tax-deductible expense. You can, however, deduct costs related to quit-smoking programs.

Are nutritionist expenses tax-deductible? 

Sometimes. Costs for a nutritionist are tax deductible only when recommended by a doctor to treat a diagnosed medical condition. For example, heart disease and diabetes are both treated through diet. Visits to a dietitian for nutritional support for these conditions are tax-deductible. 

Are allergy medications tax-deductible? 

OTC allergy medications, such as Allegra or Zyrtec, are not tax deductible. Prescription medications used to treat allergies, including EpiPens and inhalers, are tax-deductible. 

Are eyeglasses a deductible expense? 

Yes, as long as they are corrective glasses. This includes reading glasses purchased over the counter. Contact lenses and contact lens supplies, such as saline solution, are also deductible expenses. 

A Word From Verywell

Tax laws change from year to year. The allowable deductions listed in this article are current for 2020 taxes filed in 2021.

This article is not a substitute for professional accounting services. Please consult a competent tax professional for answers to specific questions about tax-deductible medical expenses.

Was this page helpful?
Article Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Department of the Treasury, Internal Revenue Service. Publication 502: medical and dental expenses. Updated January 21, 2020.