FILE - This Tuesday, May 8, 2007, file photo shows the Purdue Pharma logo at its offices in Stamford, Conn. Arizona’s attorney general is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to force the Sackler family, which owns OxyContin-maker Purdue Pharma, to return billions of dollars they took out of the company. The court filing on Wednesday, July 31, 2019, marks the first time the high court has been asked to weigh in directly on the nation’s opioid crisis. (AP Photo/Douglas Healey, File)

FILE - This Tuesday, May 8, 2007, file photo shows the Purdue Pharma logo at its offices in Stamford, Conn. Arizona’s attorney general is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to force the Sackler family, which owns OxyContin-maker Purdue Pharma, to return billions of dollars they took out of the company. The court filing on Wednesday, July 31, 2019, marks the first time the high court has been asked to weigh in directly on the nation’s opioid crisis. (AP Photo/Douglas Healey, File)

Purdue Pharma pleas could bolster efforts for Canadian opioid class action

In Canada, provincial officials have pushed for victims here to be similarly compensated by Purdue

A Canadian class action against opioid makers will start the process of getting certified in a hearing next month, a key test on how courts here will handle a case that is making waves in the U.S.

The upcoming hearing in Quebec comes after this week’s news that Purdue Pharma, the company behind OxyContin, will plead guilty to federal criminal charges in the U.S.

While the company’s pleas won’t directly play into Canadian litigation, lawyers are hopeful that the company’s admissions will help bolster their cases.

Purdue’s Canadian entities are also among the 34 parties in a proposed class action lawsuit in Quebec. Mark Meland, a lawyer at Fishman Flanz Meland Paquin LLP in Montreal who is working on the case, said preliminary hearings begin in November in preparation for an official certification decision early next year. Certification is when a judge greenlights a class action case to go forward in court.

“While the guilty plea in the U.S. does not have a direct impact on the Quebec proceedings, the admissions made by Purdue US of its role in a conspiracy to mislead the public about the risks of using opioids are consistent with the allegations made in the Quebec class action proceedings, and gives credence to the allegations that similar activities would have taken place in Quebec and Canada,” said Meland.

Purdue’s guilty pleas in the U.S. are part of a settlement of more than $8 billion and include charges of conspiracy to defraud the United States and violating federal anti-kickback laws.

Under the U.S. agreement, Purdue will become a public benefit company, meaning it will be governed by a trust that has to balance the trust’s interests against those of the American public and public health, U.S. officials said.

In Canada, provincial officials have pushed for victims here to be similarly compensated by Purdue and other pharmaceutical companies.

There is the Quebec case, which has its preliminary hearingnext month. A separate British Columbia lawsuit was launched in August 2018 on behalf of all provincial, territorial and federal governments to recover government health care and other costs of opioid-related illnesses.

Ontario, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Nova Scotia have agreed to join the suit against 40 manufacturers, wholesalers and distributors of opioids in Canada. Manitoba lawmakers this month put forth a bill to join British Columbia’s suit.

Reidar Mogerman, one of the lead lawyers for the British Columbia-based class action, said that the case is in the process of scheduling its own certification hearing, but he expects the process to be lengthy and hard-fought, as the defendants have raised numerous grounds of opposition.

“The fact that there has been a criminal guilty plea by one of the central opioid manufacturers …. lends weight and will assist in our case,” said Mogerman of the Purdue announcement.

“It also shows that something really bad has happened in the opioid industry. And it needs to be rectified. It needs to be shown under the spotlight of a court case, because it tells you that this huge crisis that we have may well have been caused by unlawful conduct that needs to be prosecuted or pursued.”

U.S. officials said Purdue is admitting that it impeded the Drug Enforcement Administration by falsely representing that it had maintained an effective program to avoid drug diversion and by reporting misleading information to the agency to boost the company’s manufacturing quotas.

Purdue is also admitting to violating federal anti-kickback laws by paying doctors, through a speaking program, to induce them to write more prescriptions for the company’s opioids and for using electronic health records software to influence the prescription of pain medication.

“Purdue deeply regrets and accepts responsibility for the misconduct detailed by the Department of Justice in the agreed statement of facts,” Steve Miller, who became chairman of the company’s board in 2018, said in a statement.

Purdue’s U.S. agreement, which will be detailed in a bankruptcy court filing in U.S. federal court, comes amid an ongoing criminal investigation into the company’s owners and executives, including the Sackler family.

The bankruptcy has been recognized in the U.S. and Canadian provinces have made claims in that case, Mogerman said. This week’s pleas will impact how claims on the bankruptcy case play out, he said.

Canadian federal public prosecutors have not pursued a parallel criminal investigation to the U.S., Mogerman said. But he said there will be impacts from the U.S. investigation on the civil case, the class action.

“It is further proof that the claims have merit. We say that very similar, if not identical conduct, occurred in Canada. We say that conduct was unlawful. And we say it gave rise to harms that we can collect on in lawsuits,” said Mogerman.

“If a party admits to doing something similar in the United States, and admits that that conduct was criminal, and obviously makes our case, easier to prosecute in Canada. It doesn’t have a direct application in Canada, but it is an admission to facts that are important and relevant in Canada.”

Anita Balakrishnan, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

opioid crisis

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

FILE – Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs have agreed to sign a memorandum on rights and title with B.C. and Ottawa, but elected chiefs are demanding it be called off over lack of consultation. (Thom Barker photo)
Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs, Lake Babine Nation get provincial funding for land, title rights

Government says it’s a new, flexible model for future agreements between Canada, B.C. and First Nations.

The property on which a residential school (pictured) that was torn down years ago in Lower Post is to be the location of a cultural centre. (Indian Residential School History and Dialogue Centre photo)
Lower Post residential school building to be demolished, replaced with cultural centre

Project to be funded by federal and provincial governments, Daylu Dena Council

Photo collage of loved ones lost to substance use and overdose. (Photo courtesy Moms Stop The Harm)
B.C. overdose deaths still rising 5 years after public health emergency declared

Moms Stop the Harm calls on B.C. to provide safe supply in response to deadly illicit drug use

Restaurant patrons enjoy the weather on a patio in Vancouver, B.C., Monday, April 5, 2021. The province has suspended indoor dining at restaurants and pubs until at least April 19 in B.C. due to a spike in COVID-19 numbers. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. sets new COVID-19 daily record with 1,293 cases Thursday

New order allows workplace closures when infections found

The new 3,500 hectare conservancy in Tahltan territory is located next to Mount Edziza Provincial Park. (BC Parks Photo)
New conservancy protects sacred Tahltan land near Mount Edziza Provincial Park

Project is a collaboration between Skeena Resources, conservation groups and the TCG

Vancouver resident Beryl Pye was witness to a “concerning,” spontaneous dance party that spread throughout social groups at Kitsilano Beach on April 16. (Screen grab/Beryl Pye)
VIDEO: Dance party erupts at Vancouver’s Kitsilano Beach to the dismay of onlookers

‘It was a complete disregard for current COVID-19 public health orders,’ says Vancouver resident Beryl Pye

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland responds to a question during Question Period in the House of Commons Tuesday December 8, 2020 in Ottawa. The stage is set for arguably the most important federal budget in recent memory, as the Liberal government prepares to unveil its plan for Canada’s post-pandemic recovery even as a third wave of COVID-19 rages across the country. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Election reticence expected to temper political battle over federal budget

Opposition parties have laid out their own demands in the weeks leading up to the budget

A syringe is loaded with COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. to open up COVID vaccine registration to all B.C. residents 18+ in April

Registration does not equate to being able to book an appointment

(Black Press file photo).
UPDATED: Multiple stabbings at Vancouver Island bush party

Three youths hospitalized after an assault in Comox

Selina Robinson is shown in Coquitlam, B.C., on Friday November 17, 2017. British Columbia’s finance minister says her professional training as a family therapist helped her develop the New Democrat government’s first budget during the COVID-19 pandemic, which she will table Tuesday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. finance minister to table historic pandemic-challenged deficit budget

Budget aims to take care of people during pandemic while preparing for post-COVID-19 recovery, Robinson said

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Each spring, the Okanagan Fest-of-Ale is held in Penticton. This year, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the festival will not be held. However, beer is still available. How much do you know about this beverage? (pxfuel.com)
QUIZ: How much do you really know about beer?

Put your knowledge to the test with this short quiz

Lord Tweedsmuir’s Tremmel States-Jones jumps a player and the goal line to score a touchdown against the Kelowna Owls in 2019. The face of high school football, along with a majority of other high school sports, could significantly change if a new governance proposal is passed at the B.C. School Sports AGM May 1. (Malin Jordan)
Power struggle: New governance model proposed for B.C. high school sports

Most commissions are against the new model, but B.C. School Sports (BCSS) and its board is in favour

Most Read