B.C. Mental Health and Addictions Minister Judy Darcy. (Black Press files)

Opposition questions B.C. lawsuit against opioid makers

Attorney General David Eby models pharmaceutical case on long-running tobacco action

The B.C. government is pressing ahead with a class-action lawsuit against multi-national drug companies, based on a health-costs case against tobacco companies that still drags on 20 years after it was filed.

Attorney General David Eby introduced legislation this week that intends to speed up the presentation of evidence showing medical and other costs to the province. It also attempts to shift the burden of proof to pharmaceutical companies that their marketing and distribution of opioid painkillers didn’t lead to harm and health costs to the province.

Eby acknowledged that the opioid case could take as long as the tobacco lawsuit, launched by the previous NDP government in 1997 with similar legislation to back it up. Opposition MLAs questioned taking on a new set of open-ended legal costs.

“The concern is, how much are they going to spend on legal fees rather than helping people, because this will only bear fruit a decade from now, whereas people are dying today,” said B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson, a former doctor and lawyer who practised medical-related law.

In the legislature, Mental Health and Addictions Minister Judy Darcy gave examples of the advertising used by Purdue Pharma, which halted its advertising in Canada in June at the request of the federal government. Purdue’s opioid painkiller Oxycontin was a market leader that ended up sold as a street drug with the nickname “hillbilly heroin.”

Darcy told the legislature of a May 2007 settlement in Virginia, where Purdue admitted misleading marketing and paid $600 million in criminal and civil settlements.

Darcy described Oxycontin ads that she said misled doctors and patients. One shows a “fit-looking jogger” with the slogan “One to start and stay with,” and another ad advised: “When you know acetaminophen will not be enough, take the next step in pain relief.”

B.C. has led Canada in the number of overdose deaths as opioid addiction has climbed across North America, fuelled by the powerful synthetic opioid fentanyl that has been smuggled across the Pacific from illegal factories in China to feed the street drug market.

RELATED: B.C. home to one third of Canada’s overdose deaths

Darcy said no money will be diverted from the province’s fund of more than $300 million to combat the overdose crisis, including expanded access to overdose drug Naloxone, opening more supervised injection sites, and launching an overdose emergency response centre with “community action teams” in 20 B.C. communities.


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

KD Air flights ceased until early March for airline improvements

Focus largely on flight schedules and convenience

Parksville to host firefighters bonspiel

The Parksville Fire Department will host, for the first time, the 61st… Continue reading

Subcommittee to review District 69 recreation, sport infrastructure

Three projects prioritized by the board expected to be dealt with by new group

Mermen calendar targets ‘toxic masculinity,’ raises big money for charities

Newfoundland and Labrador Beard and Moustache Club gave a cheque for more than $202,000 to Violence Prevention NL

Payless to close 248 Canadian stores, saying it’s ‘ill-equipped’ for market

The company will begin closing stores at the end of March

Make sure measles shots up to date, Public Health Agency says

Measles causes high fever, coughing, sneezing and a widespread painful rash

Super snow moon set to rise across B.C.

It is the biggest and brightest moon of the year

‘Our entire municipality is heartbroken’: Seven children die in Halifax house fire

A man and woman remained in hospital Tuesday afternoon, the man with life-threatening injuries

West coast group campaigns for seal, sea lion harvest

‘Salmon are going the way of the buffalo unless we do something’

Minister says plans to fight poverty, climate change, focus of B.C. budget

The NDP said in its throne speech last week that affordability will be the hallmark of its initiatives

UPDATED: ‘Violent’ B.C. man back in custody after Alberta arrest

Prince George man with ties to Vernon was being sought by police

After a week away, SNC-Lavalin questions await MPs returning to Parliament

Two have resigned already: Jody Wilson-Raybould was veterans affairs minister and Gerald Butts was Trudeau’s principal secretary

Most Read