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Pharma giant to contribute entire company’s value to opioid crisis

B.C. attorney general says settlement funds should also come to Canada
Photo by CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Patrick Sison

Any bankruptcy settlement by

synthetic opioid-making pharmaceutical giant Purdue Pharma should include funds for Canada, not just the United States, B.C.'s attorney general said Sept.16.

Purdue, which made billions selling Oxycontin and other drugs, filed for protection Sunday. A statement from the company said its entire US$10-billion (CDN$13.2 billion) would be given over to address the opioid crisis, "including potentially contributing millions of doses of life-saving opioid overdose reversal medications.

The company said the move would help it address lawsuits from 24 state attorneys general and officials from five U.S. territories.

However, it's not just the U.S. that has filed actions against the company as other jurisdictions are also seeking money from Purdue and other companies.

NDP Attorney General David Eby and Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Judy Darcy announced in August they were pursuing a class action against 40-plus opioid manufacturers, wholesalers and distributors to recover millions of dollars in opioid-related health-care costs.

The action was started on behalf of all federal, provincial and territorial governments that paid opioid-related health care, pharmaceutical and treatment costs since 1996.

"British Columbia has been monitoring with considerable interest the various recent developments in the U.S. litigation concerning the manufacture, sale and distribution of opioids," Eby said in a statement Monday. "This includes the recently reported 'tentative agreement' that would propose to resolve the claims against Purdue entities and Sackler family members."

Eby said the opioid crisis is not limited to the United States, and any settlements should take Canadian legal claims into account. "It has had, and continues to have, a devastating impact in Canada, with a correspondingly extraordinary toll on our health-care system to the ultimate detriment of Canadian taxpayers," Eby said.

The opioid crisis claimed some 4,460 lives in Canada in 2018, with opioids suspected in 1,489 deaths in B.C. alone.

But, Eby said, there has been no move yet to "to involve Canadian jurisdictions in the discussions that have led to the rumoured settlement in the U.S."

"B.C. remains ready and willing to participate in the reported effort to achieve global resolution of the claims against Purdue entities and the Sacklers. If, however, B.C. is not included in this process, we are determined to continue to pursue our claims against the Purdue entities and against members of the Sackler family to the fullest extent permitted by law."

Purdue Pharma (Canada) told Glacier Media in a statement that it is a separate company from Purdue Pharma L.P. in the United States.

"The actions taken by Purdue Pharma L.P. to settle litigation in the United States do not directly affect our business," the statement said. "Purdue Pharma (Canada) is a fully operational business that is focused on continuing to provide medicines that Canadians rely on to improve and manage their health and well-being."

The Sackler family, which controls Purdue, said it was contributing another US$3 billion.

Purdue also said it has received FDA fast-track designation for nalmefene hydrochloride, a treatment with potential to reverse overdoses from powerful synthetic opioids such as fentanyl.

"This settlement framework avoids wasting hundreds of millions of dollars and years on protracted litigation and instead will provide billions of dollars and critical resources to communities across the country trying to cope with the opioid crisis," Purdue board chair Steve Miller said. "We will continue to work with state attorneys general and other plaintiff representatives to finalize and implement this agreement as quickly as possible."