Pharma company settles lawsuit in Canada preventing further action on opioid crisis

Pharmaceutical company Purdue, which produces the prescription drug OxyContin that is causing widespread overdoses in Canada and the US, are on the verge of a settlement with provincial governments which could bar any further action from being taken against them in combating the opioid crisis.

As the Globe and Mail reported on Monday:

Purdue Pharma, maker of the prescription painkiller OxyContin, has agreed to pay $20-million, including $2-million to provincial health insurers, to settle the long-standing class-action suit. An Ontario court judge approved the proposed national settlement two weeks ago.

On Tuesday the settlement was approved by Nova Scotia, one of the last provinces that had yet to accept the terms of the agreement.

The lawsuit was the result of a class action on the part of up to 1,500 Canadians who suffered from addiction. But some are opposed to the decision as an acceptance of the funds would prevent any further legal action from being brought against the company as a condition of the settlement.

The settlement says class members and provincial health insurers are barred from “initiating, asserting or prosecuting any claim, action, litigation, investigation or other proceeding in any court of law…or any other forum.”

According to the most recent numbers from the Canadian Institute for Health Information, the settlement accounts for only a fraction of the money that is spent to combat addiction. as the Globe pointed out:

The provinces’ public drug plans spent $423.3-million over a five-year period on medications used for addiction to prescription painkillers and illicit opioids.

The National Post reported on Tuesday, a few provinces have yet to accept the settlement which does not find the drug company liable for the addictions its drugs caused.

Purdue did not admit liability in the national settlement, which still must be approved by courts in Saskatchewan and Quebec before individual payments that the judge estimated to average between $13,000 and $18,000 begin to flow.

Similar lawsuits have taken place in the United States which is dealing with a similar opioid problem fueled by the same pharmaceutical drugs.

In early July the Washington Post reported that the Justice Department had reached its first settlement in a slew of lawsuits that have been brought against several companies including Purdue.

Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals reached a $35 million settlement Tuesday to resolve allegations that the company failed to report signs that large quantities of its highly addictive oxycodone pills were diverted to the black market in Florida, where they helped stoke the opioid epidemic.

In 2007, Purdue and its top executives were found guilty of criminal violations in the companies branding which mislead doctors and patients on OxyContin’s addictive qualities. Then president of the company Michael Friedman, and others, pleaded guilty to the charges and were fined $34.5 million. According to a New York Times report on the suit:

To resolve criminal and civil charges related to the drug’s “misbranding,” the parent of Purdue Pharma, the company that markets OxyContin, agreed to pay some $600 million in fines and other payments, one of the largest amounts ever paid by a drug company in such a case.

The most recent numbers from a Canadian government report, which only recently began to collect data on opioid deaths, found that in 2016:

there were 2,458 apparent opioid-related deaths in Canada, although this figure may change as more updated data become available.

Even with the epidemic, sales of prescription opioids have continued to increase in Canada according to data from QuintilesIMS reported on by the Globe and Mail in March of 2017:

Retail pharmacies across Canada dispensed 19 million prescriptions for opioids in 2016, up slightly from 18.9 million in 2015…Prescriptions climbed six per cent over the past five years.


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