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.

BC legislatureopioids

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Interior Health reports three additional COVID-19 cases in region

The number of cases in the region since the beginning of the pandemic are now at 492

Schubert Centre reopens with new chef, menu to serve Vernon

Farm-to-table focused chef aims to serve up more local eats to seniors, diners

Petition wants ‘aggressive dogs’ banned from Vernon-area parks

Local woman starts online petition to urge RDNO to change bylaws after reported dog attack

Interior Health continues to tackle COVID-19

IH president Susan Brown says don’t become complacent about pandemic

Cops for Kids to pedal through Vernon Saturday afternoon

Supporters are encouraged to cheer on their local RCMP participants at 3:30 p.m.

3 new deaths due to COVID-19 in B.C., 139 new cases

B.C. confirms 40 ‘historic cases,’ as well

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dies at 87

The court’s second female justice, died Friday at her home in Washington

‘This is a very difficult sentencing’; Judge delays Okanagan manslaughter trial to next week

The courts heard Friday that Bourque “did not intend to cause harm” but that her actions were “reckless”

Emaciated grizzly found dead on central B.C. coast as low salmon count sparks concern

Grizzly was found on Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw territory in Smith Inlet, 60K north of Port Hardy

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

VIDEO: B.C. to launch mouth-rinse COVID-19 test for kids

Test involves swishing and gargling saline in mouth and no deep-nasal swab

Young Canadians have curtailed vaping during pandemic, survey finds

The survey funded by Heart & Stroke also found the decrease in vaping frequency is most notable in British Columbia and Ontario

B.C. teachers file Labour Relations Board application over COVID-19 classroom concerns

The application comes as B.C.’s second week of the new school year comes to a close

CHARTS: Beyond Metro Vancouver, COVID-19 cases in B.C. haven’t increased much recently

COVID-19 case counts outside of Metro Vancouver have been level since July

Most Read