Controlled Substances: Destruction of Unserviceable Stock and Post-Consumer Returns


Legislative References:

A fact sheet summarizes relevant legislation in one place. Registrants are reminded to refer to legislation for full context.

Additional References:


Controlled substances are regulated federally by Health Canada (HC) and the Office of Controlled Substances (OCS). The Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA) provides a legislative framework aimed at controlling access to substances that can alter mental processes and produce harm to the health of an individual and/or society when diverted or misused.

Pharmacists and hospitals are required to comply with the Narcotic Control Regulations (NCR), the Benzodiazepines and Other Targeted Substances Regulations (BOTSR) made under the CDSA, and Part G of the Food and Drug Regulations (FDR-G) made under the Food and Drugs Act regarding the proper security, handling and destruction of unserviceable stock, including record keeping.

Pharmacists are responsible for the safety and security of all drugs, including post-consumer returns and unserviceable controlled substances, until they are destroyed. Destruction should occur on a regular basis as any accumulation may increase diversion risk. For more information, refer to the Fact Sheet – Controlled Substances: Security and Reconciliation.

The Standards of Operation expect that controlled substances are stored and managed according to national guidelines and provincial requirements. Designated Managers are responsible for establishing a method for identifying products that are outdated or otherwise unsuitable for dispensing and for the proper disposal of such products in accordance with the College’s Policy – Medication Procurement and Inventory Management.


Controlled substance: A drug named in the federal Controlled Drug and Substances Act (CDSA), Schedules I, II, III, IV, V. These drugs are also listed in the schedules to the regulations as narcotics, controlled drugs, benzodiazepines and other targeted substances. (CDSA)

Destroy: to alter or denature a controlled substance to such an extent that its consumption is rendered impossible or improbable. (HC)

Licensed Dealer: a licensed dealer under the NCR, the FDR – Part G or the BOTSR. (HC)

Post-consumer return: unused or expired substance that is, or contains, a narcotic, targeted substance, or a controlled drug, that has been returned by an individual to a pharmacy for the purpose of destruction, but does not include any substance that has been returned to a hospital pharmacy from a patient ward. (HC)

Unserviceable stock: any drug product that is unusable, expired and/or that cannot be dispensed. In the hospital setting, this does not include partial or unusable doses outside of the pharmacy. (HC)

Guidance for Pharmacists and Hospitals

1) Unserviceable stock

Target audience: Community and hospital

Health Canada Guidance Document for Pharmacists, Practitioners and Persons in Charge of Hospitals: Handling and Destruction of Unserviceable Stock Containing Narcotics, Controlled Drugs or Targeted Substances

2) Post-consumer returns

Target audience: Community

Health Canada Guidance Document: Handling and destruction of post-consumer returns containing controlled substances (CS-GD-021)

Destruction Process

Please refer to the applicable guidance document for detailed information on the options for destruction and suggestions for denaturing controlled substances.

Option 1Enroll in a third party post-consumer return collection service

  • In Ontario, community pharmacies may enroll in the Ontario Medication Returns Program (OMRP), which offers a third party post-consumer return service.
  • The OMRP is managed by the Health Products Stewardship Association (HPSA) and sponsored by the pharmaceutical industry; the requirement to provide a free collection service for consumers is outlined in O. Reg 289/12 under the Environmental Protection Act, overseen by the province’s Ministry of the Environment.
  • The OMRP does not apply to unserviceable stock.

Option 2: Send/return to licensed dealer

  • Dealers licensed to destroy controlled substances can accept post-consumer returns as well as unserviceable stock.

Option 3: Local destruction

  • As described in the guidance, when choosing local destruction, the controlled substance is denatured and placed in a suitable waste container for disposal in an appropriate manner (e.g. sent to a waste management company licensed by the Ministry of the Environment).
  • The College does not evaluate, review, or approve specific processes or methods that may be used to achieve the desired result of rendering the drug unusable.
Patch for Patch Return Policy

Documentation of returned fentanyl patches is required to demonstrate that the dispenser has fulfilled their obligations under the provincial patch-for-patch legislation. For more information, refer to the Patch-For-Patch Fentanyl Return Program: Fact Sheet.

Published: November 2013
Version #: 2.00

College Contact: Pharmacy Practice

Revision History


Version # Date Action
1 August 2012 Published as “Narcotic Reconciliation and Security”
1.1 July 2016 Removed requirement for prior authorization for local destruction as per the Office of Controlled Substances
2.0 May 2018 Revised to reflect release of Health Canada Guidance Documents
2.1 October 2021 Title changed to Controlled Substances: Destruction of Unserviceable Stock and Post-Consumer Returns to include all controlled substances and hospitals; minor updates to content and references