OxyContin pills at a pharmacy in Montpelier, Vt. (AP Photo/Toby Talbot, File)

Lawyer for opioid maker says U.S. lawsuit won’t affect B.C. suit

Johnson & Johnson lawyer says Oklahoma ruling has no binding impact

A lawyer for Johnson & Johnson says a civil judgment from an Oklahoma court that ruled the companies helped fuel the state’s opioid crisis has no binding impact on other courts.

B.C. Attorney General David Eby has said while the legal action in the province is against dozens of manufacturers and others, the cases are based on similar facts. He and other legal experts have said the court ruling is a positive sign for litigation in Canada.

Sabrina Strong, outside counsel for Johnson & Johnson and its pharmaceutical subsidiary Janssen, says the court’s decision will not impact how the company approaches legal actions elsewhere, given the different jurisdictions, laws, defendants and claims in those cases.

The B.C. government filed a proposed class-action lawsuit a year ago alleging drug manufactures falsely marketed opioids as less addictive than other pain drugs, helping to trigger an overdose crisis that has killed thousands since OxyContin was introduced to the Canadian market in 1996.

Ontario and New Brunswick have announced they will participate in B.C.’s lawsuit, and Eby says Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia and Quebec are participating in a national working group on the case.

None of the allegations in the lawsuit has been tested in court.

Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin and another defendant in B.C.’s lawsuit, has said that it followed all of Health Canada’s regulations, including those governing marketing, and it’s very concerned about the opioid crisis in B.C. and across Canada.

Johnson & Johnson is appealing the Oklahoma court decision, which ordered the company to pay US$572 million, and says it is confident it has strong ground for its appeal. Attorneys for the company have maintained that they were part of a lawful and heavily regulated industry subject to strict federal oversight.

The Canadian Press

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