A new bill tabled in the Alberta legislature on Tuesday aims to strengthen the province’s case in class-action lawsuits against opioid manufacturers, wholesalers, distributors and consultants.
Alberta has become a participant in two class-action lawsuits initiated by British Columbia, which aim to recuperate the expenses incurred in providing healthcare for opioid addiction treatment.
In December 2019, the Opioid Damages and Health Care Costs Recovery Act was approved by the province.
Mental Health and Addictions Minister Dan Williams has introduced a new bill on Tuesday, which suggests three modifications to the initial legislation.
The proposed changes include adding the word consultants to the legislation, which would allow the province to recover costs from companies that advised opioid manufacturers and distributors. The bill also defines “active ingredients” as an “opioid product.”
Furthermore, the legislation modifies the formula for calculating market share, which will be utilized to ascertain the compensation manufacturers and distributors/wholesalers must pay in the event that the court rules in favor of Alberta.
During a news conference held on Tuesday, Williams stated that various provincial governments have implemented or are in the process of implementing similar modifications to their laws in order to achieve consensus among all the plaintiffs involved in the lawsuit.
Williams expressed his determination to obtain every last penny from those accountable for causing this crisis.
In 2018, the government of British Columbia initiated the initial collective legal action against a minimum of 40 manufacturers and distributors, representing all provincial, federal, and territorial governments. Alberta later joined this lawsuit in October 2019.
There is a hearing planned to approve the class action in the B.C Supreme Court towards the end of next month.
A second lawsuit of collective action seeks to obtain compensation from advisors who provided guidance to the pharmaceutical companies. The hearing to validate the lawsuit is planned for January.
In June 2022, Purdue Canada, one of the defendants in the initial lawsuit, reached a settlement of $150 million.
Between January and July 2023, a total of 1,104 individuals from Alberta lost their lives due to drug poisonings.
Nick Boyce, an analyst specializing in policy at the Canadian Drug Policy Coalition in Ottawa, stated that taking legal action against pharmaceutical companies might contribute to funding future programs, but it has minimal impact on the immediate preservation of human lives.
According to Boyce, fatalities are not caused by pharmaceutical drugs but rather by a hazardous supply of illegal drugs.
He inquired if this is merely a diversion from the lack of investment in safe supply programs aimed at helping individuals escape the hazardous drug market.
“Why aren’t we expanding harm reduction initiatives like supervised consumption sites? Why are we imposing abstinence-only approaches without evidence-based treatment options on individuals?”