Skip to content

B.C. government can sue opioid companies in B.C. Supreme Court

The B.C. government began the putative class proceeding in August 2018 to recover health-care costs.
supreme-court-scales-rkjpg
The government alleges that, from 1996 — when the Purdue‑related defendants first introduced and began to improperly market OxyContin in Canada — to the present, the class members paid health-care, pharmaceutical, treatment and other costs related to opioids.

A B.C. Supreme Court judge has ruled the province can sue opioid-distributing companies in that court as a putative class-action suit.

The government brought the lawsuit under the Opioid Damages and Health Care Costs Recovery Act and the Class Proceedings Act.

“The plaintiff brings its claims to recover certain opioid‑related health-care costs and damages from defendants who were involved in the manufacturing, marketing, distribution or sale of opioid drugs and products from 1996 to the present,” Justice Michael Brundrett said in his April 25 decision.

“Generally, the plaintiff’s claim against the manufacturer defendants is that they marketed and promoted opioids in Canada as less addictive than they knew them to be, and for conditions they knew the drugs were not effective in treating,” Brundrett said. “These misleading marketing and promotion efforts allegedly resulted in an increase in the prescription and use of all opioids.

Named as defendants in the case are: Apotex Inc., Apotex Pharmaceutical Holdings, Inc., Bristol-Myers Squibb Canada, Bristol-Myers Squibb Company, Paladin Labs, Endo Pharmaceuticals Inc., Endo International PLC, Endo Ventures Ltd., Ethypharm Inc., Janssen Inc., Johnson & Johnson, Pharmascience Inc., Joddes Limited, Pro Doc Limitee, The Jean Coutu Group (PJC) Inc., Mylan Pharmaceuticals ULC, Purdue Pharma Inc., Purdue Pharma L.P., The Purdue Frederick Company Inc., Purdue Frederick Inc., Ranbaxy Pharmaceuticals Canada Inc., Sun Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd., Hikma Labs Inc., Hikma Pharmaceuticals PLC, Roxane Laboratories Inc., Boehringer Ingelheim (Canada) Ltd. / Boehringer Ingelheim (Canada) LTEE., West-Ward Columbus Inc., Sanis Health Inc., Sandoz Canada Inc., Teva Canada Innovation G.P.-S.E.N.C., Teva Canada Limited, Teva Pharmaceuticals USA, Inc., Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd., Actavis Pharma Company, Valeant Canada LP / Valeant Canada S.E.C., Bausch Health Companies Inc., Imperial Distributors Canada Inc., Amerisourcebergen Canada Corporation, Kohl & Frisch Limited, Kohl & Frisch Distribution Inc., McKesson Corporation, McKesson Canada Corporation, Nu‑Quest Distribution Inc., United Pharmacists Manitoba Inc., Procurity Inc., Procurity Pharmacy Services Inc., Shoppers Drug Mart Inc., Unipharm Wholesale Drugs Ltd., LPG Inventory Solutions, and Noramco Inc.

The government began the putative class proceeding in August 2018.

Pro Doc and The Jean Coutu Group Inc. had brought an application to the court asserting B.C. was not the appropriate jurisdiction for the case to be heard.
The government rebutted that there is a “real and substantial connection” between British Columbia and the claims against the defendants because they carried on business in B.C. and that there are issues of restitution arising as a result.

“The plaintiff submits that liability for compensation for health-care costs incurred by B.C. at issue in this proceeding constitutes both a tort and gives rise to restitutionary obligations,” Brundrett said.

The judge said the government alleges that, from 1996 — when the Purdue‑related defendants first introduced and began to improperly market OxyContin in Canada — to the present, the class members paid health-care, pharmaceutical, treatment and other costs related to opioids.

“The plaintiff seeks to recover these costs,” Brundrett said.

The class action alleges public nuisance, unjust enrichment, negligent failure to warn, negligent design, negligent misrepresentation, fraudulent misrepresentation/deceit, breach of Competition Act and breach of the Food and Drugs Act.

Pro Doc and The Jean Coutu Group Inc. submitted that they have no significant presence in British Columbia and no noteworthy involvement in the opioid market here. 

None of the allegations have been proven in court.

jhainsworth@glaciermedia.ca

twitter.com/jhainswo