FILE – British Columbia Attorney General David Eby pauses while responding to questions in Vancouver on Friday May 24, 2019. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)

B.C. wants to be part of global resolution in opioid company bankruptcy claim

Government says settlement must include Canadian claims for devastation created by overdose crisis

The British Columbia government says any proposed settlement from opioid manufacturer Purdue Pharma needs to include Canadian claims for the devastation created by the overdose crisis.

Purdue, the maker of the pain drug OxyContin, has filed for bankruptcy in the United States and proposed a multibillion-dollar plan to settle with thousands of state and local governments.

B.C. Attorney General David Eby said Monday the province has been monitoring the developments including a tentative agreement that proposes to resolve the claims with Purdue, which is owned by the Sackler family.

READ MORE: B.C. pleased with Oklahoma ruling in opioids case as it continues lawsuit

Purdue Pharma Canada says in a statement it is a separate company from the U.S. firm and the actions taken to settle litigation in America don’t directly affect its business in Canada.

Eby said the province remains “ready and willing” to participate in the effort to achieve a resolution but if B.C. is not included in the process then the government will to continue its lawsuit that names Purdue and several other opioid makers as defendants.

“If, however, B.C. is not included in this process, we are determined to continue to pursue our claims against the Purdue entities and against members of the Sackler family to the fullest extent permitted by law,” he said in a statement.

“To date there has been no effort on the part of Purdue entities and the Sacklers to involve Canadian jurisdictions in the discussions that have led to the rumoured settlement in the U.S.”

The province filed a proposed class-action lawsuit a year ago alleging drug manufactures falsely marketed opioids as less addictive than other pain medicines, triggering an overdose crisis that has killed thousands.

None of the allegations have been tested in court.

A statement of defence from Purdue Pharma could not be found on the B.C. Supreme Court website on Monday. Purdue Pharma has previously said that it followed all of Health Canada’s regulations, including those governing marketing, and it’s very concerned about the opioid crisis in B.C. and across Canada.

The pharmaceutical giant filed for bankruptcy late Sunday, step one in a plan it says would provide US$10 billion to $12 billion to help reimburse state and local governments over overdose deaths.

READ MORE: OxyContin maker reaches tentative U.S. opioid-crisis settlement

The plan calls for turning Purdue into a “public benefit trust” that would continue selling opioids but hand its profits over to those who have sued the company. The Sackler family would give up ownership of Purdue and contribute at least $3 billion toward the settlement.

It will be up to a federal bankruptcy judge to decide whether to approve or reject the settlement or seek modifications.

Two dozen states plus key lawyers who represent many of the 2,000-plus local governments suing the Connecticut-based company have signed on to the plan.

But other states have come out strongly against it, arguing that it won’t provide as much money as promised.

— With files from the Associated Press

The Canadian Press

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