Opioid manufacturer Purdue Pharma (Canada) (Purdue Canada) has agreed to a first of its kind settlement in Canada resulting from B.C.-led efforts to recover health-care costs related to the sale and marketing of opioid-based pain medicines.
The settlement was reached in the context of a proposed class-action lawsuit brought by British Columbia on behalf of all Canadian governments.
“B.C.’s efforts to negotiate this unique settlement, together with other Canadian governments paves the way for additional settlements to be reached in the ongoing litigation against other manufacturers and distributors of opioid products,” said David Eby, Attorney General. “We know that no amount of money can bring back those who have died, but we are committed to holding corporations and others accountable for acts of alleged wrongdoing committed in the manufacturing and distribution of opioid products.”
In 2018, B.C. began a class-action lawsuit on behalf of all federal, provincial and territorial governments in Canada and enacted the Opioid Damages and Health Care Costs Recovery Act. The aim of the class action and legislation is to recover health-care costs that resulted from wrongful conduct of opioid manufacturers, distributors and their consultants.
B.C. alleges that opioid manufacturers, distributors and their consultants engaged in deceptive marketing practices with a view to increase sales, resulting in increased rates of addiction and overdose. Purdue Canada is one among over 40 manufacturers and distributors named in the class action commenced in 2018 and scheduled for a certification hearing in the next year.
The proposed settlement with Purdue Canada has been agreed to by all federal, provincial and territorial governments and totals $150 million in monetary benefits, plus additional benefits including access to information and documents relevant to the lawsuit. This settlement was reached very early in the litigation process, before the allegations against Purdue Canada have been proven in court. This is the largest settlement of a governmental health claim in Canadian history. The proposed agreement is still subject to final approval by the courts, expected in the next few months.
In addition to the Purdue Canada settlement, B.C.’s application to certify its class-action lawsuit in the B.C. Supreme Court has been scheduled for fall 2023. This could open up the door to further settlements to recover health-care costs.
“B.C. is using all the tools in the toolbox to tackle the ongoing public health emergency,” said Sheila Malcolmson, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions. “We are standing up to multi-national pharmaceutical companies, advancing decriminalization, investing in new treatment and recovery services, expanding harm-reduction measures like prescribed safe supply, and building a comprehensive and seamless continuum of mental health and addictions care that British Columbians need and deserve.”
Together, the provinces, territories and Canadian government will continue to aggressively pursue litigation against the remaining defendants until they have all been held accountable.