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B.C. changes opioid lawsuit to help recover more money from drug makers

Changes will allow the federal government to join the legal action
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Moms Stop the Harm advocates and supporters march from Centennial Square to the Ministry of Health building on the sixth anniversary to mark the public health emergency of the declaration due to the significant increase in opioid-related overdose across the province during the Cut The Red Tape theme in Victoria on Thursday, April 14, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito

The British Columbia government has moved to expand its proposed class-action lawsuit against opioid makers, allowing the federal government to join the legal action.

Other changes planned for the Opioid Damages and Health Care Costs Recovery Act include allowing provincial and federal governments to ensure that officers of the corporate defendants may also be held accountable for the many opioid deaths in the province.

The government launched a lawsuit on behalf of provinces and territories in 2018, alleging drug makers and distributors used deceptive marketing practices to increase sales, which boosted rates of addiction and overdose.

Purdue Pharma Canada is one of 40 manufacturers and distributors named in the class action, but earlier this year, the province reached a settlement with the company to recover the health-related costs to the highly addictive opioids.

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix says the government is doing everything it can to address the overdose crisis and the amendments to the law will allow for the expansion of the legal action against more than 40 opioid makers and distributors.

A provincial coroner’s report released last month said the rate of toxic drug deaths has doubled to 42 people per 100,000, twice the number it was in April 2016 when the government declared a public health emergency over the rising rate of overdoses.

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