BC opioid lawsuit: Province seeks to allow Ottawa to join class action against drug companies

The BC government says it will introduce amendments to legislation that would allow the federal government to join a BC-led class-action lawsuit seeking to recover health-care costs related to the sale and marketing of opioid-based pain medication.

The province says the changes to the Opioid Damages and Health Care Costs Recovery Act would allow Ottawa to join BC and other provinces and territories in the class-action suit that is pursuing damages from companies that allegedly contributed to the opioid addiction crisis.

The province said Monday the amendments would expand the number of potential defendants in the case and also ensure that corporate officers and directors can be held accountable for the actions of their companies.

“BC led the country in holding opioid manufacturers and distributors accountable, and today BC is expanding its opioid litigation legislation,” Sheila Malcolmson, BC’s Minister of Mental Health and Addiction, said in a statement Monday.

“Nothing will ever replace the lives lost in our province, but we keep using every tool in our toolbox – from prevention to safe supply to treatment – to turn the tide on this terrible crisis,” the minister added.

BC Health Minister Adrian Dix said the amendments would broaden the scope of the legal action against more than 40 opioid makers and distributors.

In June, the province reached a proposed settlement with Purdue Pharma Canada on behalf of all provinces and territories to recover health-care costs related to the sale and marketing of opioid-derived pain medication

The proposed $150-million settlement was reached before any allegations against Purdue had been proven in court, representing the largest settlement of its kind in Canadian history.

Purdue is among the 40 manufacturers and distributors named in the class-action suit in progress.

“Our government is continuing to do everything we can to address the damage opioids have done to people’s lives in BC,” Dix said.

The class action against the opioid makers and sellers was initiated in 2018 and is scheduled for a certification hearing in BC Supreme Court in the fall of 2023.