The British Columbia government just announced a $150-million settlement with Purdue Canada in a proposed class-action lawsuit.
This settlement was achieved on behalf of all Canadian federal, provincial, and territorial governments, according to a B.C. government news release.
“B.C.’s efforts to negotiate this unique settlement, together with other Canadian governments paves the way for additional settlements to be reached in the ongoing litigation against other manufacturers and distributors of opioid products,” Attorney General David Eby said. “We know that no amount of money can bring back those who have died, but we are committed to holding corporations and others accountable for acts of alleged wrongdoing committed in the manufacturing and distribution of opioid products.”
The federal government website states that between January 2016 and December 2021, there were 29,052 "apparent opioid toxicity deaths" in Canada.
The litigation began in 2018, which was the same year that B.C. enacted the Opioid Damages and Health Care Costs Recovery Act.
The B.C. government news release states that Purdue Canada is among more than 40 manufacturers and distributors named in the court action, which is scheduled for certification as a class action in the next year.
B.C. has alleged that the defendants—including opioid manufacturers, distributors and their consultants—"engaged in deceptive marketing practices with a view to increase sales, resulting in increased rates of addiction and overdose".
In September 2019, a U.S. bankruptcy judge agreed to a US$4.5-billion settlement in connection with litigation by thousands of state, local, and tribal governments over Purdue Pharma's role in opioid deaths.
At the time, Eby said that "there has been no effort on the part of Purdue entities and the Sacklers [owners of Purdue Pharma] to involve Canadian jurisdictions in discussions" that led to the settlement"
Purdue, which manufactured OxyContin, went into bankruptcy protection as part of the settlement.
Nearly two years later, according to the New York Times, another another bankruptcy court judge approved a plan to formally dissolve Purdue and allow for a new company, Knoa Pharma, to market OxyContin.
But then in December 2021, a federal judge determined that this settlement could not proceed because it offered protection to the Sackler family from liability.
Then in March 2022, members of the Sackler family reached an agreement with eight states and the District of Colombia whereby they would pay up to US$6 billion in trust to pay various claims.
In contrast, the settlement negotiated by the B.C. government for all of Canada amounted to the equivalent of US$117 milllion based on the exchange rate. That's considerably lower on a per capita basis than what the Sacklers agreed to earlier this year south of the border.