Crisis opioids: pharmaceuticals could be sued for $ 1.1 billion

Canadian drug companies have been enriched at the expense of vulnerable patients by illegally and misleadingly promoting opioids that are highly addictive – and have killed thousands of people in recent years. ‘Collective action.
The claim, filed Wednesday in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, claims more than $ 1.1 billion in various damages from about 20 companies, including big names such as Apotex, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Johnson and Johnson and the Jean Coutu Group. The Superior Court will now have to determine whether the class action can proceed.

The lawsuit, filed on behalf of patients who became dependent on prescription opioids, is also seeking a statement that these companies have been negligent in the way they conducted the research, development and commercialization of opioids from 90s.

“The defendants knew that anyone who injected opioids would be very much at risk of becoming addicted,” says the application. “The defendants have thus breached the legal and common law obligations to the plaintiff and his group, who have become opioid dependent, and [these companies] owe them damages.”

The class action representative is Darryl Gebien, a Toronto physician who was prescribed the Percocet opioid for a thumb ligament injury, and who has become highly addicted. ” Dr. Gebien’s addiction has had a significant and lasting impact on his life,” says the application. ” Dr. Gebien lost his license to practice medicine. He lost his job. He was incarcerated. He lost custody of his children. ”

Addictive euphoric effect

Opioids are potent narcotics that can induce a euphoric addictive effect requiring higher and higher doses to maintain their effectiveness and avoid withdrawal symptoms. Originally, these drugs were not widely prescribed for the treatment of pain, because of the risks of dependence, but this approach changed in the mid-1990s.

“The defendants argued that opioids were safe, effective and appropriate for long-term use in common pain conditions,” according to the application. “The defendants’ tough marketing efforts have been incredibly successful.”

No statement of defense has been filed and the allegations have not yet been examined by any court. Purdue Pharma has already argued that it has marketed its products in accordance with the rules in force.

4000 deaths per year in Canada

Opioid abuse has become a real public health crisis, with fatal overdoses that have turned into an epidemic in North America. These opioids have killed more than 20,000 Canadians in the last 20 years, and today, there are approximately 4,000 new deaths each year in Canada. Opioids kill more people than road accidents in the United States.

Attorney Kirk Baert believes it was “high time” that “these companies be held accountable for the harm they have done to thousands of Canadians.”

“The defendants knew that anyone who would inject opioids would be highly likely to become addicted.”
– Extract from the request for authority

The defendants named in the class action suit manufacture, market, distribute and sell opioids in Canada. Some drugs, such as fentanyl, oxycodone and tramadol, are now known mainly because of the ravages they have caused.

The introductory claim alleges that the pharmaceutical companies engaged in a “false and misleading” marketing undertaking, in particular indicating to patients that the use of opioids for the relief of pain would improve their quality of life without any adverse effects, such as addiction or withdrawal problems.

“The defendants knew – or should have known – that their allegations about the risks and benefits of opioids were either unsupported by scientific evidence – or contrary to that evidence,” it is said. “[They] advised health professionals to ignore the signs of dependency, on the basis of an unfounded state, which they called” pseudo-addiction. ”

Other collective actions

The British Columbia government, which declared a public health emergency in 2016, also filed a class action lawsuit against 40 companies last year to recover the health care costs associated with opioid addiction. Other provinces have also considered taking such measures.

This month, the manufacturer of OxyContin in the United States was the subject of another lawsuit filed by a US state. It is alleged that the company continued to extol its painkiller to doctors even when sales representatives were concerned about the risks of improper prescription. The lawsuit filed in Connecticut against Purdue Pharma, which has threatened a possible bankruptcy, has made Pennsylvania the 39 th US state to pursue this company.

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