COVID-19 Temporary Exemption and Provincial Regulatory Amendments – Updated May 13

Health Canada Exemption

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 a temporary exemption under Section 56(1) of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA). This exemption will expire upon being revoked, replaced by another exemption, or on September 30, 2020, whichever occurs first.

Health Canada has also published a list of frequently asked questions related to the temporary exemption.

Provincial Regulatory Amendments

There will also be provincial regulatory changes, effective April 4, 2020. Unless otherwise specified, these provincial changes apply to all drugs, including narcotics, controlled drugs and benzodiazepines.

  1. Where a Public Health Emergency or State of Emergency is declared:
    1. Section 21 of the Regulated Health Professions Act Pharmacist and Pharmacy Technician Regulations is amended to add:
      1. a pharmacist may give a continuing care prescription for a monitored drug, other than methadone or suboxone; and a pharmacist who has a special authorization to dispense methadone and suboxone under section 24 may give a continuing care prescription for methadone or suboxone,if the conditions described in clauses (1)(a) to (d) and (1)(f) are met.
      2. Subsection 21 (3) does not apply. This subsection details the prohibitions on continued care prescriptions.
    2. Clause 21(1)(e) of the Regulated Health Professions Act Pharmacist and Pharmacy Technician Regulations is revoked. An original prescription no longer needs to have been dispensed at the same pharmacy from which the pharmacist is giving the prescription.
    3. Subsection 8(2) of the Pharmacy Act General Regulations is revoked and the Schedule to the regulations is revoked. Methadone prescriptions are not required to be faxed to the pharmacy on the methadone fax form.

For pharmacists practicing in Prince Edward Island, these changes will mean that effective April 4, 2020 while the Public Health Emergency is active and while the Health Canada Section 56(1) exemption is active:

  • pharmacists may now transfer prescriptions for narcotic and controlled drugs within PEI;
  • transfers for targeted drugs are no longer limited to one transfer only;
  • prescribers will be permitted to issue verbal orders for narcotics, controlled drugs and methadone;
  • pharmacy staff may deliver prescriptions of narcotics and controlled substances to patient’s homes or other locations where they may be (i.e., self-isolating);
  • pharmacists may give continued care prescriptions for narcotics, controlled and targeted drugs;
  • pharmacists who have an EPC in dispensing methadone may give continued care prescriptions for methadone and suboxone;
  • pharmacists may give a continued care prescription even if the original prescription was dispensed at another pharmacy (applies to all drugs, including narcotics, controlled drugs and benzodiazepines);
  • pharmacists may give a continued care prescription to a patient for an amount that exceeds the amount authorized per refill under the original prescription, may authorize refills of a continued care prescription and may give consecutive continued care prescriptions to a patient for the same drug (applies to all drugs, including narcotics, controlled drugs and benzodiazepines.)

The following guidance document summarizes the changes:

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