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

Some older Canadian currency will have its legal status removed at the start of the new year(. (Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com)
Bank of Canada puts the boots to old bills

$1 and $2, $25 to $500 and $1,000 lose cash value Jan. 1, 2021

Grade 3 student Nate Twaddle, who uses a walker for a rare neurological condition, has been zooming along a new accessible walkway since it was installed in early October at Willway Elementary in Langford. (Aaron Guillen/News Staff)
Langford mother thankful for accessible walkway that helps son connect with peers

Rare neurological condition means Grade 3 student uses wheelchair, walker to play

The realignment of Highway 14 between Connie and Glinz Lake roads in Sooke will take more than a year to complete. (File - Sooke News Mirror)
The realignment of Highway 14 between Connie and Glinz Lake roads in Sooke will take more than a year to complete. (Kevin Laird - Sooke News Mirror)
Patience requested from drivers as work begins on realignment of Highway 14 in Sooke

Construction between Connie and Glinz Lake roads expected to take 1½ years

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry update the COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, Nov. 23, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C. sets another COVID-19 record with 887 new cases

Another 13 deaths, ties the highest three days ago

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of Nov. 24

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

Police in Nanaimo are looking for a suspect who wore a black-and-white striped hoodie and rode a yellow mountain bike when he allegedly stole three children’s backpacks from a daycare facility. (Photo submitted)
VIDEO: Thief steals children’s backpacks from daycare in Nanaimo

Suspect rode a yellow mountain bike and made off with backpacks hanging on fence

Arthur Topham has been sentenced to one month of house arrest and three years of probation after breaching the terms of his probation. Topham was convicted of promoting hate against Jewish people in 2015. (Photo submitted)
Quesnel man convicted for anti-Semitic website sentenced to house arrest for probation breach

Arthur Topham was convicted of breaching probation following his 2017 sentence for promoting hatred

Langley School District's board office. (Langley Advance Times files)
‘Sick Out’ aims to pressure B.C. schools over masks, class sizes

Parents from Langley and Surrey are worried about COVID safety in classrooms

The Klahoose First Nation village on Cortes Island is under lockdown until further notice due to a positive COVID-19 test. Photo courtesy Kevin Peacey.
Cortes Island First Nation community locked down due to positive COVID-19 test

Klahoose First Nation has had one positive test, one other potential case

Ladysmith’s 1st Avenue will be lit up until January 15. (Cole Schisler photo)
Light Up parade a no-go, but Ladysmith’s streets are still all aglow

Although the tradition Light Up this year was cancelled, folks can still enjoy the holiday lights

The baby boy born to Gillian and Dave McIntosh of Abbotsford was released from hospital on Wednesday (Nov. 25) while Gillian continues to fight for her life after being diagnosed with COVID-19.
B.C. mom with COVID-19 still fighting for life while newborn baby now at home

Son was delivered Nov. 10 while Gillian McIntosh was in an induced coma

Most Read