Manitoba plans to join class-action lawsuit against opioid manufacturers

Manitoba is preparing to join a growing class-action lawsuit against dozens of opioid manufacturers.

The province has introduced legislation to become part of the British Columbia-led suit, which alleges that drug manufacturers falsely marketed opioids as less addictive than other pain drugs.

“Our government has taken action to help the individuals, families and communities that have been affected by the misuse of opioids,” Justice Minister Cliff Cullen said on Thursday.

“Now it is time for Manitoba to hold these companies to account, by joining other provinces and territories to take on the pharmaceutical companies that have created such significant and ongoing harm.”

The Opioid Damages and Health Care Costs Recovery Act, introduced in spring 2020, would allow Manitoba to join the class action lawsuit launched by British Columbia in August 2018 and pursue claims in the bankruptcy of Purdue Pharma.

The lawsuit names more than 40 manufacturers, wholesalers and distributors of opioids in Canada.

Similar legislation has already been passed in B.C., Ontario, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Nova Scotia.

“The human cost of opioids — such as addiction, poisoning, hospitalizations and deaths — is high, and we have invested significant resources in the health-care system to respond to opioids,” said Health Minister Cameron Friesen, touting the $42 million spent by the province since October 2019 to address mental health and addictions issues.

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