The Supreme Court of British Columbia has filed a class action lawsuit against the opioid industry whose marketing practices have negatively impacted thousands of British Columbians.

The lawsuit aims to recoup millions of dollars in costs incurred by the provincial government due to opioid-related health care issues.

Over 40 opioid manufacturers, wholesalers and distributors have been named as defendants and are accused by the province of causing “an epidemic of addiction” and valuing profits over providing safe health care for the public.

“It’s time opioid drug companies take responsibility for the human and financial toll their products have taken on so many families across British Columbia,” said David Eby, Attorney General.

“In court, we will argue that these drug companies deceptively marketed their products knowing full well the potential consequences, and as a result, British Columbia has incurred great costs.”

An Angus Reid report published earlier this year shows that one-in-eight Canadians have family or close friends who face addiction to opioids.

Timeline

The lawsuit is in its early stages and there is no current estimate on how much damages will be sought from the companies, or how any amount would be distributed to alleviate government health care costs.

BC is now waiting to see if the court certifies the lawsuit as a class action under the Class Proceedings Act, which will then allow other provinces and territories to join in.

The next step is to serve each defendant company with the lawsuit and await their response.

New legislation

In the next sitting of the legislature, the province will be introducing an opioid damages and health-care costs recovery act.

Similar to the legislation that supported the ‘Big Tobacco’ litigation in 1998, this legislation will aid the court process by allowing it to consider statistical data, budget information and other evidence of the opioid-crisis instead of having to introduce expense records for each individual patient.

“I have sat with family members who have lost loved ones to overdose, and we are taking action to address the terrible impact overdose is having on the lives of our children, partners and friends,” said Judy Darcy, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions.

“Drug companies must take responsibility for their role, and need to put the lives of people ahead of profits.”