B.C. Mental Health and Addictions Minister Judy Darcy. (Black Press files)

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

(Black Press Media file photo)
Police arrest man covered in blood on heels of significant Saanich crash into woods

Resident calls in home invasion in progress after crash

Nikita, a four-year-old German Shepherd that was attacked by a buck in a backyard in Esquimalt Sunday is lucky the injury wasn't more severe. (Photo contributed by Suzette Goldsworthy)
Esquimalt dog owner issues alert after deer injures German shepherd

Nikita needed stitches after an early morning encounter

(Left to right) Saanich Predators assistant captain Jack Groves, captain Joe Stafford-Veale, assistant captain Jacob King and assistant captain Riley Wiens show off one of the team’s three new jerseys featuring the orca logo. (Photo courtesy Christine Gleed)
Saanich Predators junior hockey team breaks in new logo, jerseys

Junior B hockey team rebrands after 53 years

Capital Regional District Animal Control say an eight-month-old Rottweiler bit a Langford mother and her child near Glen Lake on Nov. 19. (Black Press Media file photo)
Large dog attacks mother and child in Langford

Mother puts three-year-old on top of car to protect him

The Victoria Police Department headquarters. (Black Press Media file photo)
Investigation launched into man’s death after arrest in Victoria

IIO investigation to determine if police actions or inaction played a role in the man’s death

People wearing face masks to help curb the spread of COVID-19 cross a street in downtown Vancouver, on Sunday, November 22, 2020. The use of masks is mandatory in indoor public and retail spaces in the province. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. reports 17 COVID deaths, 1,933 new cases as hospitalizations surge over the weekend

There are 277 people in hospital, of whom 59 are in ICU or critical care

An aerial shot of Cedar Valley Lodge this past August, LNG Canada’s newest accommodation for workers at the project site in Kitimat. This is where several employees are isolating after a COVID-19 outbreak was declared last Thursday (Nov. 19). (Photo courtesy of LNG Canada)
Forty-one positive COVID-19 cases associated with the LNG Canada site outbreak in Kitimat

Thirty-four of the 41 cases remain active, according to Northern Health

Workers arrive at the Lynn Valley Care Centre seniors home, in North Vancouver, B.C., on Saturday, March 14, 2020. It was the site of Canada’s first COVID-19 outbreak in a long-term care facility. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Rapid tests ‘not a panacea’ for care homes, Dr. Bonnie Henry says

B.C. lacks capacity for daily tests of thousands of workers

(Delta Police Department photo)
Cannabis edibles found in Halloween bag lead B.C. police to illegal lab

Delta police arrested a man and a woman while executing a warrant at a residential property Nov. 20

A woman being arrested at a Kelowna Value Village after refusing to wear a mask on Nov. 22.(@Jules50278750/Twitter)
VIDEO: Woman arrested for refusing to wear mask at Kelowna Value Village

RCMP claims the woman was uncooperative with officers, striking them a number of times and screaming

B.C. Liberal MLA Shirley Bond questions NDP government ministers in the B.C. legislature, Feb. 19, 2020. (Hansard TV)
Cabinet veteran Shirley Bond chosen interim leader of B.C. Liberals

28-member opposition prepares for December legislature session

Motorists wait to enter a Fraser Health COVID-19 testing facility, in Surrey, B.C., on Monday, November 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
COVID-19: What do rising positivity rates mean for B.C.? It’s not entirely clear

Coronavirus cases are on the rise but the province has not unveiled clear thresholds for further measures

A rider carves a path on Yanks Peak Saturday, Nov. 21. Two men from Prince George went missing on the mountain the next day. One of them, Colin Jalbert, made it back after digging out his sled from four feet under the snow. The other, Mike Harbak, is still missing. Local search and rescue teams went out looking Monday, Nov. 23. (Sam Fait Photo)
‘I could still be the one out there’: Snowmobiler rescued, 1 missing on northern B.C. mountain

As Quesnel search and rescue teams search for the remaining rider, Colin Jalbert is resting at home

Most Read