The west coast province of British Columbia has seen a particularly high toll in deaths from opioid overdoses., over 1,400 alone last year Canada as whole recorded approximately 4,000 opioid related drug deaths.
In a first in Canada, British Columbia has initiated legal action against some 40 drug companies to recover costs associated with the opioid crisis saying the manufacturers, wholesalers, and distributors downplayed the risks of addiction.
Dr. Joel Lexchin M.D, is a professor emeritus with the School of Health Policy and Management at York University.Listen
A British Medical Journal study released this week in the British indicated about a third of the opioid overdose deaths in the province of Ontario came from prescribed drugs.
Calling the overdose deaths a “terrible toll”, B.C. Attorney General David Eby also said the companies were responsible because of their “negligence and corruption” over the last 20 years.
Speaking outside the B.C court, Eby was quoted in the Globe and Mail saying, “While much attention has been focused on the effects of street drugs contaminated by illicit fentanyl and carfentanil, there is another side of this crisis”.
The suit alleges that the companies knew or should have known that their drugs were also slipping into the black market.
The lawsuit seeks to recover costs to the public healthcare system, and not to families who have lost a loved one.
In a statement Purdue Pharma, one of the companies named, replied<” “The opioids crisis is a complex and multifaceted public health issue that involves both prescription opioids and, increasingly, illegally produced and consumed opioids, as indicated in Health Canada’s latest quarterly monitoring report”: It went on to say it has always obeyed Canadian and international rules.
Purdue which makes the produce OxyContin, admitted in an American lawsuit in 2007 that its marketing was misleading and paid criminal and civil compensation of US $634-million.
Other provinces, and the federal government, are all studying the situation before deciding on joining or launching a similar course of action.