$1.1 Billion in Lawsuits Filed Against Opioid Makers in Canada

Purdue, Bristol-Myers Squibb and Apotex have been singled out in opioid-related lawsuits in Canada.

More lawsuits have been filed against the makers of opioid pain killers. The lawsuits are no longer confined to the United States, but are now being filed internationally.

A Toronto law firm has filed more than two dozen lawsuits against drugmakers over the aggressive marketing practices that have attributed to abuse of opioid drugs in Canada, the Globe and Mail reported. The lawsuits claim the companies were deceptive in their marketing practices and reaped “obscene” profits at the expense of the health and well-being of patients. The legal firm of Koskie Minsky filed a proposed class-action lawsuit in Ontario making similar arguments that attorneys in the United States have been making. The Canadian lawsuit seeks more than $1.1 billion in damages.

“Pharmaceutical companies should be held accountable for their negligence, not just in manufacturing these products, but in manufacturing this crisis,” Kirk Baert, a lawyer at the firm, said, according to the report.

According to the report, the first nine months of 2018 saw more than 3,200 opioid-related deaths in Canada.

A pharmaceutical company included in the lawsuit is Purdue Pharma, which became the poster-child of opioids due to the aggressive marketing of its lead pain killer OxyContin. Much like the United States, OxyContin has been one of the main opioids associated with the epidemic in Canada, the Globe and Mail reported. Other companies named in the lawsuit include Bristol-Myers Squibb, which makes Percocet, and generic drugmaker Apotex.

There has already been a proposed class action lawsuit in Canada, but the Globe and Mail reported that a settlement remains on hold. Last March, a judge rejected a $20 million compensation Purdue had agreed to pay, claiming that it is neither fair nor reasonable. A hearing over this proposed settlement is scheduled for September, according to the report.

In the U.S., there have been thousands of lawsuits filed against companies like Purdue. In April, Purdue settled a lawsuit in Oklahoma for $270 million. The state of Oklahoma had been seeking more than $20 billion in damages from Purdue, as well as other opioid manufacturers, such as Teva Pharmaceutical and Johnson & Johnson. Purdue is the subject of some 1,600+ lawsuits. The one playing out in Massachusetts has become something of a headache for Purdue as the state has attempted to place blame on the company for 670 opioid-related deaths in the state since 2009. The lawsuit against Purdue has also made sure to emphasize how critical the success of OxyContin sales was to the company’s bottom line. Earlier this month, Purdue filed a motion to dismiss the state’s complaint. The motion questions some of the accusations made by the attorney general’s office.

While Purdue has begun to settle lawsuits in the U.S., the Globe and Mail noted that the Connecticut-based company has not done so in Canada.

Not only are pharma companies being targeted, so too are pharmaceutical distributors. Earlier this year, the government filed criminal charges against executives at the Rochester Drug Co-Operative, Inc. (RDC), one of the 10 largest pharmaceutical distributors in the United States for their roles in distributing opioid medications. According to the government charges, from 2012 through March 2017, RDC violated federal narcotics laws by distributing dangerous, highly addictive opioids to pharmacy customers that it knew were being sold and used illicitly.