Illegal marketing of opioids and other controlled substances

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Controlled Substances

Controlled substances:

  • are divided into categories based on their potential for abuse or addiction
  • are any types of drugs that the federal government has categorized as having a higher-than-average potential for abuse or addiction

Learn more about controlled substances.


Opioids are certain drugs that are used primarily to treat pain.

Types of opioids include:

  • codeine
  • fentanyl
  • morphine
  • oxycodone
  • medical heroin
  • hydromorphone

Learn more about opioids, their side effects and how to use them more safely.

Requirements to advertise opioids in Canada

The advertising of opioids and other controlled substances is regulated in Canada under the:

  • Food and Drugs Act
  • Food and Drug Regulations
  • Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
  • Narcotic Control Regulations
  • Benzodiazepines and Other Targeted Substances Regulations

Mandatory preclearance by a recognized advertising preclearance agency

All opioid-related materials distributed by industry to health care providers in Canada must first be reviewed and precleared by an advertising preclearance agency. The agency must be recognized by Health Canada. The agency will determine whether the materials are promotional and, if so, whether they comply with the Terms of Market Authorization.

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What to watch for in opioid advertising

Watch for opioid advertising that claims:

  • a lower risk of addiction
  • use for mild pain contrary to the product monograph
  • a lower abuse potential of some controlled release formulations

What actions we have taken related to opioid advertising

In addition to the requirement for mandatory preclearance, we are taking action to further restrict the marketing and advertising of opioids.

Please visit the Restricting the marketing and advertising of opioids page for more information.

How health care providers can help stop illegal marketing

We need your help to stop the illegal marketing of opioids and other controlled substances.

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