The Current

Drug company knew Oxycontin was addictive and lied about it, says plaintiff in class action suit

A judge has blocked a $20 million settlement that a drug company offered to victims of the opioid crisis, saying he was not convinced it was fair or reasonable to the plaintiffs.
Stephen MacGillivray was addicted to opioids for almost a decade. He's one of the hundreds of Canadians who brought the class action suit against Purdur Pharma. (Submitted by Stephen MacGillivray)

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A judge's decision to block a $20 million lawsuit settlement has been applauded — by one of the plaintiffs in line for the payout.

Stephen MacGillivray is one of hundreds of Canadian patients who took the class action lawsuit against the drugmaker Purdue Pharma (Canada), over how the company marketed the painkiller Oxycontin.

"Purdue Pharma knew this drug was addictive, and they blatantly told people that it was not," he told The Current's Anna Maria Tremonti.

"They were basically lying to the doctors."

MacGillivray was prescribed the painkiller after a workplace accident in 1997. He said he became addicted within two months, and over the next decade of dependence he lost his job, his family, and ended up with a criminal record.

The $20 million settlement had already been signed off by judges in three provinces.

But Justice Brian Barrington-Foote of Regina's Court of Queen's Bench rejected the offer on March 15.

Part of the judge's reasoning was that "the proposed settlement was not fair, reasonable or in the best interests of the class as a whole," according to Matthew Herder, director of the Health Law Institute at Dalhousie University.

Once $2 million of the $20 million sum had been set aside for the provinces, plaintiffs would have received $11,000 to $13,000 each.

"Purdue Pharma (Canada) has always marketed its products in line with the Health Canada-approved product monograph and in compliance with all relevant rules, regulations and codes, including the Food and Drugs Act," the company told The Current in a statement. Purdue Pharma have never made an admission of liability in the case.

A judge recently rejected a settlement in a decade-long lawsuit over how Purdue Pharma (Canada) marketed and sold its pain medication OxyContin. (Toby Talbot/Associated Press)

The rejection now creates an opportunity to review the options available to both patients and provincial governments, said Herder.

"I think part of the real value of this moment in the middle of this class action is to have a more public conversation about the different legal mechanisms that might be available."

He added that if provincial governments decide to follow Justice Barrington-Foote's move away from supporting the class action, they could "try and recover a greater measure of money to deal with the public health crisis."

For MacGillivray, there's more at stake than a cash settlement.

"It was really never about the money for me. ... I would like to see them say that they did wrong," he said.

"That's the big thing, and I don't think we're ever going to see that or hear that."

Listen to the full conversation at the top of this page, where you can also share this article across email, Facebook, Twitter and other platforms.

This segment was produced by The Current's Exan Auyoung and Julie Crysler.