What Are the National Drug Schedules?

The National Drug Schedules (NDS) model consists of three schedules or four categories:

Schedule I Drugs

Schedule I drugs require a prescription for sale and are provided to the public by the pharmacist following the diagnosis and professional intervention of a practitioner. The sale is controlled in a regulated environment as defined by provincial pharmacy legislation.

Schedule II Drugs

Schedule II drugs, while less strictly regulated, do require professional intervention from the pharmacist at the point of sale and possibly referral to a practitioner. While a prescription is not required, the drugs are available only from the pharmacist and must be retained within an area of the pharmacy where there is no public access and no opportunity for patient self-selection. 

Schedule III Drugs

Schedule III drugs may present risks to certain populations in self-selection. Although available without a prescription, these drugs are to be sold from the self-selection area of the pharmacy which is operated under the direct supervision of the pharmacist, subject to any local professional discretionary requirements which may increase the degree of control. Such an environment is accessible to the patient and clearly identified as the “professional services area” of the pharmacy. The pharmacist is available, accessible and approachable to assist the patient in making an appropriate self-medication selection. 

Unscheduled Drugs

Unscheduled drugs can be sold without professional supervision. Adequate information is available for the patient to make a safe and effective choice and labeling is deemed sufficient to ensure the appropriate use of the drug. These drugs are not included in Schedules I, II or III and may be sold from any retail outlet.

NAPRA also developed Supplemental Standards of Practice for Schedule II and III Drugs which provide additional information about the level of professional intervention and advice necessary for the safe and effective use of these drugs by consumers according to each Schedule.