CDSA Exemption and Interpretive Guide for Controlled Substances


To maintain Canadians’ access to controlled substances for medical treatments (e.g., treatment of substance use disorders and chronic pain), while they adhere to social distancing guidance from public health officials or if they need to self-isolate, Health Canada has issued the attached exemptions for prescriptions of controlled substances under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA) and its Regulations.

If permitted within the applicable provincial/territorial scopes of practice, the exemptions:

  • permit pharmacists to extend prescriptions;
  • permit pharmacists to transfer prescriptions to other pharmacists;
  • permit prescribers to issue verbal orders (i.e., over the phone) to extend or refill a prescription; and
  • permit pharmacy employees to deliver prescriptions of controlled substances to patient’s homes or other locations where they may be (i.e self isolating).

“We strongly encourage all partners to work to implement these exemptions in their jurisdictions and welcome any additional suggestions you may have to maintain Canadians’ access to controlled substances for medical reasons during the pandemic.”

~ Health Canada

About Peter Kim

Strategic Communications Manager, Canadian Drug Policy Coalition