British Columbia sues pharmaceutical companies over opioid crisis

The province of British Columbia, Canada, on Wednesday filed a class-action lawsuit against pharmaceutical companies, accusing them of contributing to the country’s opioid epidemic.

Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Judy Darcy (L) and British Columbia Attorney General David Eby announce a lawsuit against more than 40 pharmaceutical companies over the state's opioid crisis Wednesday outside the Supreme Court in Vancouver, Canada. Photo courtesy of British Columbia
Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Judy Darcy (L) and British Columbia Attorney General David Eby announce a lawsuit against more than 40 pharmaceutical companies over the state’s opioid crisis Wednesday outside the Supreme Court in Vancouver, Canada. Photo courtesy of British Columbia

B.C. Attorney General David Eby and Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Judy Darcy announced the suit outside the Supreme Court of British Columbia.

“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,” Eby said. “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.”

Named in the lawsuit are more than 40 opioid manufacturers, wholesalers and distributors. They are accused of putting profits over the safety of the public by deceiving prescribers and patients about the benefits and risks of opioids.

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

The action comes three months after seven U.S. states announced a lawsuit against Purdue Pharma for “reckless disregard” in selling narcotic painkillers that contribute to the opioid crisis.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said the state “will not sit idly by as big corporations fuel the opioid epidemic and ignore the consequences of their actions.”

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The British Columbia Center for Disease Control blamed 742 deaths on unintentional overdose between January and June, most of them related to to fentanyl, a type of opioid.

ByDanielle Haynes