A researcher in Victoria is suing Health Minister Margaret MacDiarmid and the province over their handling of a health data privacy breach last summer.

Dr. William Warburton says the province defamed him in statements made after it was determined that at least 38,486 B.C. residents had their medical information compromised by a group of researchers.

The B.C. Ministry of Health said health information of B.C. patients was saved on USB sticks and improperly shared three times in October 2010 and June 2012.

Warburton, 59, holds a doctorate in economics and had a contract with the Ministry of Health to perform complex data analyses on reported adverse drug reactions in patients.

His contract was terminated last summer, and he says the government unfairly accused him of improperly using provincial health data.


Dr. William Warburton's contract with the Ministry of Health was to allow him to evaluate the impact of atypical anti-psychotic prescription medications on patient health outcomes. (iStock)

In a civil claim filed in B.C. Supreme Court  Monday, Warburton said at the time his contract was terminated his research was on the effects of atypical anti-psychotic medications on patient outcomes. 

Warburton claims he was going to work with data gathered on the use of drugs such as aripiprazole, quetiapine, olanzapine, risperidone, ziprasidone, paliperidone, and clorzapine.

Warburton alleges that at the time of the privacy breach scandal, the Liberals were receiving significant contributions from drug companies — in some cases, from the same companies whose medications were part of the province's drug plans.

Warburton also alleges that the province was eliminating drug safety programs that in place, could limit sales.

His claim states that by terminating his contract, the province damaged his reputation, caused him to lose $100,000 in revenue and the ability to generate other business in similar research.

The Ministry of Health says it plans to respond to the suit in the next three weeks.

None of the claims have been proven in court.

With files from the CBC's Chad Pawson