B.C. Sues Big Pharma for Downplaying the Danger of Opioids

Finally a demand for accountability.

Yesterday, the British Columbia government filed a lawsuit against opioid manufacturers for their role in spurring a crisis that had claimed almost 4,000 lives last year. B.C.’s lawsuit is the first one filed by a government in Canada.

The class-action suit alleges that manufacturers of opioid medications marketed drugs as less addictive than was known to them. The class period starts in 1996, when Purdue first began to market OxyContin in Canada. At the time, a news release about the drug claimed “fear of addiction is greatly exaggerated” and “there is very little risk of addiction.” Earlier this year it was found that Purdue paid Canadian doctors more than $2 million to “consult” on OxyContin.

While a figure has not been determined, the suit seeks compensation for public healthcare costs incurred by the actions of opioid manufacturers.

“We have initiated a class-action lawsuit against the different manufacturers and distributors of brand name and generic opioid medications in order to recover the public health-care costs we allege were increased dramatically by their actions,” said Attorney General David Eby. “While money can never address the human toll of this tragedy, it is my responsibility as attorney general to take action where we believe corporations or individuals have acted to harm the people of B.C.”

The charges stem from “corporate corruption and negligence.” In addition to downplaying the dangers of opioids, some companies are accused of prescribing drugs for conditions they were not intended to treat.

In Ontario, in 2016, prescriptions led to a third of all opioid-related deaths.

More than 40 companies are named in the suit, including giants like Purdue Johnson & Johnson, Loblaw Companies and Shoppers Drug Mart. The latter two are accused of intensifying “the crisis of opioid abuse, addiction and death in Canada” as distributors.