Canadian Pharmacists Association
Canadian Pharmacists Association

National Pharmacist Survey on the Exemptions under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA)

In the fall of 2021, CPhA conducted a national survey of pharmacists about the temporary exemptions under the CDSA and pharmacists’ ability in some provinces to adapt opioids and controlled substances. The survey has provided CPhA and pharmacy leaders a greater understanding of how pharmacists have embraced and implemented the activities to better care for vulnerable patients during the pandemic. The survey has also highlighted pharmacists’ views about the impact of these activities on patients and their practice.


CDSA Survey Icon

Results of this survey will help inform our continued advocacy efforts for permanent changes to the CDSA that would enable pharmacists to better manage opioid therapy and controlled substances for their patients.

View the full report


Survey highlights

Implementing the CDSA exemptions in practice

CDSA Pie Chart Icon

In the past year, related to opioids and controlled substances, most pharmacists (69%) found it difficult to reach prescribers in a timely manner to extend, renew, transfer or adapt prescriptions for patients.


At least once a week:

44% Icon

of pharmacists encountered patients who required a change or a refill for their prescription when their physician was unavailable or their clinic was closed.

Over Half Icon

of respondents accepted a verbal prescription, transferred a prescription and/or had medication delivered to patients.


At least once every few weeks:

Extended Icon

62 percent Icon
of pharmacists
extended prescriptions

Adapted Icon

41 percent Icon
of pharmacists
adapted prescriptions


At least once a month:

32 Percent Icon

of pharmacists
extended, renewed or adapted opioids for opioid use disorder

43 percent Icon

of pharmacists
extended, renewed or adapted opioids for chronic non-cancer pain


Enablers, barriers and impact of the CDSA exemptions

  • A third of pharmacists identified the time and attention required as a moderate barrier to implementing the CDSA exemptions.
  • Relationships with their patients and familiarity with the regulations were identified as enablers by 71% and 62% of pharmacists, respectively.
  • The majority of pharmacists are confident using the CDSA exemptions in practice (71%) and extending or renewing prescriptions for opioid agonist therapy (56%).
  • Most pharmacists believe the CDSA exemptions have had a positive impact on patients (79%) and on various aspects of their practice (53%-70%)