Proposed settlement with U.S. opioid-maker should include Canadian claims, B.C. government says

The British Columbia government says any proposed settlement from opioid manufacturer Purdue Pharma needs to include Canadian claims for the devastation created by the overdose crisis.

Purdue, the maker of the pain drug OxyContin, has filed for bankruptcy in the United States and proposed a multibillion-dollar plan to settle with thousands of state and local governments.

B.C. Attorney General David Eby said Monday the province has been monitoring the developments, including a tentative agreement that proposes to resolve the claims with Purdue, which is owned by the Sackler family.

Purdue Pharma Canada says in a statement it is a separate company from the U.S. firm and the actions taken to settle litigation in America don’t directly affect its business in Canada.


Purdue Pharma has made billions selling the prescription painkiller OxyContin. (Jessica Hill/Associated Press)

Eby said the province remains “ready and willing” to participate in the effort to achieve a resolution but if B.C. is not included in the process then the government will continue its lawsuit, which names Purdue and several other opioid makers as defendants.

“To date there has been no effort on the part of Purdue entities and the Sacklers to involve Canadian jurisdictions in the discussions that have led to the rumoured settlement in the U.S.,” Eby said in a statement.

The province filed a proposed class-action lawsuit a year ago alleging drug manufactures falsely marketed opioids as less addictive than other pain medicines, triggering an overdose crisis that has killed thousands.

None of the allegations have been tested in court.


B.C. Attorney General David Eby, right, and B.C. Mental Health and Addictions Minister Judy Darcy announced a lawsuit against 40 drug companies on Aug. 29, 2018, accusing wholesalers, distributors and manufacturers of being responsible, in part, for the province’s ongoing opioid crisis. (Frederic Gagnon/CBC)

A statement of defence from Purdue Pharma could not be found on the B.C. Supreme Court website on Monday. Purdue Pharma has previously said that it followed all of Health Canada’s regulations, including those governing marketing, and it’s very concerned about the opioid crisis in B.C. and across Canada.

The pharmaceutical giant filed for bankruptcy late Sunday, step one in a plan it says would provide $ 10-$ 12 billion US to help reimburse state and local governments over overdose deaths.

The plan calls for turning Purdue into a “public benefit trust” that would continue selling opioids but hand its profits over to those who have sued the company. The Sackler family would give up ownership of Purdue and contribute at least $ 3 billion toward the settlement.

It will be up to a federal bankruptcy judge to decide whether to approve or reject the settlement or seek modifications.

Two dozen states plus key lawyers who represent many of the 2,000-plus local governments suing the Connecticut-based company have signed on to the plan.

But other states have come out strongly against it, arguing that it won’t provide as much money as promised.

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CBC | Health News