Toronto

Ontario intends to join B.C.'s proposed class action against opioid manufacturers

The Ontario government says it plans to join British Columbia's proposed class action lawsuit against dozens of opioid manufacturers.

Minister Caroline Mulroney says province to introduce bill that will pave way for participation

Attorney General Caroline Mulroney says the province will introduce legislation that, if passed, would enable Ontario's participation in B.C.'s proposed class action lawsuit against dozens of opioid manufacturers. (CBC)

The Ontario government says it plans to join British Columbia's proposed class action lawsuit against dozens of opioid manufacturers.

Attorney General Caroline Mulroney said on Monday that the province will introduce legislation that, if passed, would enable Ontario's participation in the suit launched late last year.

She said Ontario would invest any potential awards won from the litigation into frontline mental health and addiction services.

British Columbia filed the proposed class action against dozens of pharmaceutical companies in a bid to recoup the health-care costs associated with opioid addiction.

Suit alleges companies falsely marketed opioids

The untested suit alleges the companies falsely marketed opioids as less addictive than other pain drugs and helped trigger an overdose crisis that has killed thousands since OxyContin was introduced to the Canadian market in 1996.

It names the maker of OxyContin — Purdue Pharma Inc. — as well as other major drug manufacturers, and also targets pharmacies, including Shoppers Drug Mart Corp. and its owner Loblaw Companies Ltd., claiming they should have known the quantities of opioids they were distributing exceeded any legitimate market.

The class action names the maker of OxyContin — Purdue Pharma Inc. — as well as other major drug manufacturers, and also targets pharmacies, including Shoppers Drug Mart Corp. and its owner Loblaw Companies Ltd., claiming they should have known the quantities of opioids they were distributing exceeded any legitimate market. (George Frey/Bloomberg/Getty)

In a separate Ontario case launched earlier this month, lawyers representing patients who became addicted to opioids filed a statement of claim seeking more than $1.1 billion in various damages from nearly two dozen companies.

That suit alleges the companies were negligent in how they researched, developed and marketed opioids starting in the 1990s.

Ontario to set up agency on mental health, addictions care 

At the same news conference, Mulroney said the Ontario government will establish an agency to oversee mental health and addictions care across the province.

Mulroney said the current system is fragmented and confusing for patients and their families.

She added that the Mental Health and Addictions Centre of Excellence will be a central point for oversight of care.

The agency will be responsible for developing and standardizing care across the province.