Controlled Drugs and Substances Act Exemptions for Pharmacists (March 19, 2020)


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).

OPEN LETTER: Urgent action required to ensure equitable application of public health protections to vulnerable British Columbians


We call on you to: (1) recommend that the Minister of Health order the immediate suspension of municipal bylaws which sanction the displacement of people sheltering in public spaces; (2) recommend that the Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General direct that police forces immediately and for the duration of both public health emergencies cease expending resources on the enforcement of simple possession and related offenses; (3) re-emphasize to prescribers and their colleges the importance of the new Guidelines for Risk Mitigation in the
Context of Dual Public Health Emergencies to saving lives; and (4) ensure that the level of resources and attention currently being provided to long-term care homes is also afforded to reserves, prisons, homeless shelters and in high-density and high-risk hubs such as Vancouver’s downtown eastside.