British Columbia is taking Opioid producers to court for “corporate negligence and corruption” in a lawsuit targeting 40 pharmaceutical producers and suppliers.
“We have reason to believe the allegations we are bringing forward in court are entirely credible and will be proven,” British Columbia's Attorney General David Eby said.
Eby announced that he had filed a lawsuit against 40 pharmaceutical companies connected to the manufacturing, distribution, and wholesale of opioids early Wednesday morning.
The legal action aims to recover the monetary losses suffered by the public health sector in addiction treatment, emergency response, hospital expenses over the last 20 years. Eby also alleged that pharmaceutical companies were guilty of downplaying the dangers and highly addictive potential linked to the drugs.
Evan Wood, director of the B.C. Center on Substance Use, said, “We went from a time when physicians, it wouldn’t even come into their minds to prescribe an opioid – those medications are for cancer patients, we know they’re very dangerous – to a place where free samples of OxyContin are being given to people with relatively minor arthritis.”
Mental Health and Addictions Minister Judy Darcy said, “No amount of money from this action can possibly make up for the loss of someone's child, someone's partner, or someone's friend.
"Today we are clearly saying that pharmaceutical companies must take responsibility for their role and put the lives of people before profit," Darcy added.
Leslie McBain, whose son died in 2014 from an opioid overdose, said: “The lawsuit may never come to fruition...the point really is to show Canadians that we do hold [opioid manufacturers] accountable for deaths.”
The movement is already changing the conversation across the country with Alberta’s health minister announcing that the Alberta province is now considering initiating its own lawsuit.
OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma (Canada) said in a statement that it was “deeply concerned” about the opioid crisis which it called, “complex and multi-faceted public health issue” that involved not only prescription medication by also illegally produced opioids.
Opioid use has surged over the last twenty years, placing Canada at the world’s second-largest market for prescriptions written per capita and 4,000 cases of opioid overdose in the last year alone.