B.C. changes opioid lawsuit to help recover more money from drug makers
This entry by Eoin O’Dowd, a lawyer representing the province in its opioid lawsuit, appeared in the Globe, April 29th, 2019
The federal and provincial governments have spent a lot of time fighting the opioid overdose crisis. So far, the fight is making little progress in the courtroom.
But it’s not just a legal battle between two governments. The battle has also begun to change Canadian society.
The latest in a long line of lawsuits against the opioid industry is an unexpected new front. It is an effort to bring a little bit of the money the industry earns from drug prescriptions to health care organizations. That suit is based on the argument that prescription opioids like OxyContin should be treated like other prescription medications.
But before the battle on opioid lawsuits can move on, it must first decide how to do so. For that, it turns to the courts and the federal court of arbitration for Canada, which is hearing the case over claims by the province of British Columbia that the industry is profiting from the overdose crisis.
The province alleges that the industry’s drug makers are making huge profits by selling prescription opioids at lower prices than they could from other sources, like illegal trafficking or illegal online pharmacies. In particular, the lawsuit argues that manufacturers of the generic version of one opioid, Zohydro, which is supposed to be less potent, are making millions of dollars by lowering the strengths of the brand and generic drugs they produce.
The industry also alleges that big pharmaceutical companies are shifting profits to other companies, like pharmaceutical companies in other countries, that are competing with them.
The province, like the province of Quebec before it, claims that this is a form of price fixing by pharmaceutical companies. The federal government’s drug pricing review finds these allegations credible.
And the provinces aren’t the only ones on the losing end on this battle. The federal government has been spending a lot of time fighting the opioid overdose epidemic, and the