Deceptive efforts by opioid makers and distributors intensified crisis of addiction and death in Canada, class action says

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A British Columbia man identified only as “M.W.” is suing major opioid drug manufacturers in a proposed class action, claiming the controversial class of painkillers were misleadingly marketed in Canada since 1996, leading to a countrywide epidemic of addiction and death.

The anonymous plaintiff filed a notice of civil claim under the Class Proceedings Act in BC Supreme Court on December 18, naming dozens of companies as defendants including Apotex, Bristol-Myers Squibb (NYSE:BMY), Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ), Purdue Pharma, Valeant (TSX:BHC) and others, along with distributors including Loblaws (TSX:L) and Shoppers Drug Mart.

According to the lawsuit, the plaintiff suffered a spinal injury in 2003 and was prescribed OxyContin for the pain, and his dosage was eventually tripled from the original prescription.

“In the months following, the Plaintiff quickly became addicted to OxyContin,” the claim states. “In or around 2008, the Plaintiff’s physician came to realize that the Plaintiff was addicted to OxyContin and ceased providing him with prescriptions. The Plaintiff immediately started suffering from severe withdrawal symptoms, which resulted in him purchasing and using illegal opiates. The Plaintiff’s addiction led to substantial financial loss, which placed him on the precipice of bankruptcy.”

The man claims he developed “Opioid Use Disorder” and filed the action on behalf of a proposed class of Canadians that have consumed opioid drugs made, marketed and sold by the defendants since 1996 when OxyContin was first introduced.

The drug manufacturer defendants, M.W. claims, misleadingly downplayed the addiction risks and exaggerated the effectiveness of the drugs.

The distributor defendants, meanwhile, delivered the drugs “to pharmacies and hospitals in Canada in quantities that they knew or should have known exceeded any legitimate market.”

“Such distibribution efforts,” the claim says, “intensified the crisis of Opioid abuse, addiction and death in Canada.”

M.W. claims more than 20,000 Canadians have died from overdoses in the last two decades. 

The claim seeks class certification and damages for negligence, breach of duty of care, unjust enrichment, and Competition Act violations. The allegations have not been tested or proven in court and the defendants had not responded to the claim by press time.

Full list of defendants:

Apotex Inc.; Apotex Pharmaceutical Holdings Inc.; Bristol-Myers Squibb Canada; Bristol-Myers Squibb Co.; Paladin Labs (TSX:PLB); Endo Pharmaceuticals Inc. (Nasdaq:ENDP); Janssen Inc.; Johnson & Johnson Pharmascience Inc.; Joddes Ltd.; Pro Doc Ltd.; The Jean Coutu Group (PJC) Inc. (TSX:PJC.A); Mylan Pharmaceuticals ULC (Nasdaq:MYL); Purdue Pharma Inc.; Purdue Pharma LP; The Purdue Frederick Co.; Purdue Frederick Inc.; Ranbaxy Pharmaceuticals Canada Inc.; Hikma Labs Inc.; West-Ward Columbus Inc.; Sanis Health Inc.; Sandoz Canada Inc.; Teva Canada Ltd.; Teva Pharmaceuticals USA Inc. (NYSE:TEVA); Actavis Pharma Co. (YSE:AGN); Valeant Canada LP; Valeant Canada S.E.C.; Bausch Health Companies Inc. (TSX:BHC); Gamma Wholesale Drugs Ltd.; Imperial Distributors Canada Inc.; Amerisourcebergen Canada Corp. (Nasdaq:ABC); Kohl & Frisch Ltd.; Kohl & Frisch Distribution Inc.; McKesson Corp. (NYSE:MCK-N); McKesson Canada Corp.; Nu-Quest Distribution Inc.; United Pharmacists Manitoba Inc.; Procurity Inc.; Procurity Pharmacy Services Inc.; Shoppers Drug Mart Inc.; Loblaw Cos. Ltd.; and LPG Inventory Solutions.