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

(Phil McLachlan - Capital News file)
Ladysmith RCMP lays out policing priorites

Staff Sgt. Wes Olsen presented the RCMP’s priorities to Ladysmith Town Council on December 1

Maureen Thom holds a can of Suck it Cancer Pale Ale and a heart created by her son Michael ‘Chili’ Thom when he was in kindergarten. (Submitted photo)
Backcountry Brewing creates limited edition beer to fundraise for BC Cancer Foundation

Squamish based beer company Backcountry Brewing has released a limited edition batch… Continue reading

Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools’ staff and trustees held their annual general board meeting Dec. 2 via Microsoft Teams. (SD68 image)
Nanaimo Ladysmith school district chairperson retains role, new vice-chair chosen

Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools held annual general meeting Wednesday

The Chemainus Health Care Auxiliary is taking a pro-active approach and closing the thrift shop as a precautionary measure as of Saturday. (Photo by Don Bodger)
Chemainus Health Care Auxiliary Thrift Shop closing again as a precautionary measure

Second closure this year will last at least six weeks due to the COVID situation

Jon Lefebure went back to construction after losing the 2018 mayor’s post in North Cowichan to work on the Cottages On Willow. (Photo by Don Bodger)
Former North Cowichan mayor retools priorities with construction project

Fresh air a benefit and satisfaction results from building eight-unit housing complex

Motorists wait to enter a Fraser Health COVID-19 testing facility, in Surrey, B.C., on Monday, Nov. 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Another 694 diagnosed with COVID-19 in B.C. Thursday

Three more health care outbreaks, 12 deaths

B.C. NDP leader John Horgan releases his election platform, Vancouver, Oct. 6, 2020, featuring COVID-19 relief payments promised for most households. (B.C. NDP photo)
Next $1.5 billion in B.C. COVID-19 cash ‘prudent,’ Horgan says

New round of paymens for household incomes up to $175,000

KIJHL games have been postponed through Dec. 31. (File photo)
KIJHL postpones all games through end of 2020

Due to provincial health orders, games up to Dec. 31 have been pushed back

Robert Riley Saunders. (File)
Former Kelowna social worker arrested for allegedly stealing from foster kids

Robert Riley Saunders was arrested in Alberta and will be brought back to B.C. to face charges

Lake Trail Middle School in Courtenay has closed again due to a threat Friday (Dec 4). File photo
Island middle school closed for the second time in a week due to threat

On Nov. 26, Lake Trail Middle School was closed for a day while a similar incident occurred.

Melissa David, of Parachutes for Pets and her dogs Hudson and Charlie are trying to raise money for a homeless shelter that will allow pets and are seen in Calgary, Alta., Thursday, Feb. 6, 2020.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘My only wish:’ Children asking pet charity to help their furry friends at Christmas

Parachutes for Pets says it has received 14 letters from children in the last week

Melissa Velden and her chef-husband Chris Velden, stand in their dining room at the Flying Apron Inn and Cookery in Summerville, N.S. on Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. The couple is hosting holiday parties with appropriate distancing and other COVID-19 health protocols in place at their restaurant. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
Celebrities, Santa and Zoom part of office holiday parties being held amid COVID-19

Many will send tokens of appreciation to workers or offer time off or cash

Emergency crews used a backhoe loader to clear fire debris from the scene of a fire on Wesley Street Thursday as police and firefighters gathered up propane tanks, stoves and fireplaces used by camp residents to heat tents. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
City of Nanaimo dismantles downtown homeless encampment after fire

Four to six tents burned up in Wesley Street fire Thursday, Dec. 3

Most Read