In a press statement, British Columbia Attorney General David Eby condemned the serious price paid by many citizens and their families after they became addicted to opioids. He announced a lawsuit targeting pharmaceutical companies in order the money spend by the healthcare system in order to fight the opioid crisis
The suit was filed on Wednesday against over 40 pharmaceutical companies that develop, manufacture and sell of opioids. The government accuses companies of minimizing the information offered about the risks of using the medicine while they were advertised to physicians. They especially downplayed the addiction potential of the drugs, increasing the crisis.
Judy Darcy, minister of Mental Health and Addictions has declared that while any gain may help the system offer more assistance, irreparable damage has been already done to the family and friends of the addicted.
Eby has added that is time for companies to focus first on the well-being of patients instead of profit. The suit will recover only costs to the public healthcare system, which offers emergency response, addiction treatment, and other hospital services for the addicts. The exact amount requested was not made public yet.
One of the companies in the giant claim has already responded to the charges. In a press statement, the company argued that the opioid crisis is caused not only by prescription opioids, as the production and consumption have been rising, according to recently released statistics. The company agreed that all the players, including the pharmaceutical industry, should do their best in order to offer practical and reasonable solutions.
Government opposition is against the initiative, citing that it does not focus on the right culprits. The crisis, according to them, needs an immediate response from the healthcare department. A costly lawsuit that may need decades until all the parties involved defend themselves consumes valuable funds that could have been invested in other solutions which could have helped the people directly.
Are companies to blame?
A major issue is the deaths caused by the consumption of homemade drugs made with fentanyl. The lawsuit is perceived by some as an important first step since many illegal users became addicted after where prescribed legal opioids.
Similar cases of litigation were judged in the US. It remains to be seen how impactful will be the initiative in the long run. It is anticipated that the process will take a long time, as many companies will aggressively try to defend themselves. Darcy has also added that the government is researching how to reduce the consumption among illegal users, and further restrict the ability to manufacture the drug at home. According to Donald MacPherson, drug policy researcher at the Simon Fraser University also encourages the hunt on the fentanyl-contaminated drugs which cause most of the overdose deaths.
Matthew Herder, Director of the Health Law Institute at the Halifax-based Dalhousie University has already spoken with several lawyers about the case and he is confident that it was a right choice, stating that is important that at least one agency is preoccupied in taking action against some of the responsible parts, which are responsible to some degree, for the crisis. He added that such action was needed and that he along other researchers has been long calling for it since there was almost no legal initiative against the companies, which can be also, be likened to lawsuits against tobacco companies.
While some of the companies have stopped the marketing process, it may be already too late. The healthcare system may become overloaded with the rising numbers of addicts, caused by companies that were willing to expose them to the drugs in order to gain a faster profit.
The results remain to be seen as companies will rally to defend themselves in the following weeks.