Are my doctor ordered over-the-counter vitamins tax deductible?

September 10, 2014 by Dave Du Val, EA
Spoon full of vitamins

Hey Dave,

I had bariatric surgery and must take a number of vitamins daily. These vitamins are purchased over the counter without a prescription. Since these vitamins are required to maintain my health and are doctor ordered, are their costs tax deductible?




Sorry to say, but likely not. Over-the-counter medications (those you do not need a prescription to purchase) are almost never considered a deductible medical expense. The “almost” is because there is an exception for insulin.

In rare cases nutritional supplements are allowed as a deduction if they are recommended by a doctor to treat specific medical conditions. If you took this deduction and it was questioned by the IRS you would have to prove that the surgery was medically necessary and not elective, and that the vitamins were necessary to the treatment and not a substitute for normal diet. Even in this instance you may face an uphill battle with the IRS, one there is no guarantee you would win.

We would recommend that if you choose to deduct the cost you obtain a letter from the physician detailing what vitamins are recommended and what medical condition is being treated. A statement as to why this is necessary may help. You might also ask your physician to write a prescription for them, even if they are over-the-counter, as this may eventually bolster your case.

And, as with all medical expenses, the total has to reach more than 10% of your AGI (assuming you are under 65) and you have to itemize before the deduction has any impact on your return.

We hope the surgery proves to be beneficial to you.

Deductibly Yours,


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