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Pharmaceutical companies are criticized for having trivialized the harmful effects of opioids.
The Quebec government plans to table a bill during the coming days so that we can join the class action brought by British Columbia against more than 40 pharmaceutical companies accused of having trivialized the harmful effects of opioids.
This information was first confirmed to The Canadian Press by a source familiar with the matter. Radio-Canada also obtained confirmation.
British Columbia maintains that manufacturers made false statements about the risk of opioid addiction. In particular, they allegedly failed to mention the side effects and withdrawal symptoms of these medications used primarily to relieve pain.
In Canada, more than 38,000 deaths are linked to opioid poisoning between January 2016 and March 2023. Quebec records approximately 525 deaths linked to this crisis between July 2022 and June 2023.
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Some users started by purchasing [opioids] on the black market, others [borrowed some] from friends or family. Then, other times, it was prescribed directly to them, and it became a problem afterwards, explains Dr. Catherine de Montigny, specializing in addiction medicine at the University Hospital Center de Montréal (CHUM).
The fact that this analgesic remedy becomes worse than the disease is also a trend observed by Jessica Turmel, addiction trainer and consultant: A lot of people who hit the streets with big opioid problems, it came from a [prescription], she says. Many had had a [prescription] for back pain.
The class action accuses distributors of allowing the market to be flooded with opioids, thus contributing to the crisis shaking the country and all of North America more broadly.
Me, from my point of view on the ground, the damage is done.
A quote from Catherine de Montigny, doctor in addiction at CHUM
Health Canada reminds that opioids are likely to lead to problematic consumption due to the feeling of euphoria that they can cause [a
Regular users of opioids may also become addicted to the dose taken over time. You may need an increasingly higher dose of opioids to achieve the same effect, warns the federal agency, which warns of potential overdoses.
Better prevention and more accessible care: these are the solutions defended by Dr. Catherine de Montigny while waiting for the class action to succeed.
The plaintiffs are demanding $85 billion from the targeted pharmaceutical companies, in particular to cover the health care costs associated with this crisis.
Governments have had to assume health costs, hospitalization costs and treatment costs. The costs are enormous: we are talking about several millions, even billions of dollars, and we do not necessarily know how far it can stop, explains Louis Letellier de St-Just, health law lawyer. .
An out-of-court settlement of $150 million has already been reached between Purdue Pharma Canada and all governments in June 2022.
This was the first settlement of its kind in Canada, thanks to the class action brought by British Columbia in 2018 against 40 pharmaceutical companies on behalf of the federal government, provinces and territories.
British Columbia passed the Opioid Damages and Health Care Costs Recovery Act to support his appeal. This law stipulates that the province can bring a class action on behalf of the federal and provincial governments.
With the exception of Quebec, Yukon and Nunavut, the majority of Canadian provinces have laws similar to that of British Columbia. These laws make it possible to include their government in the collective action brought by another province, hence the desire of the government of Quebec to have such a law adopted.
Although the class action was brought by British Columbia on behalf of the federal, provincial and territorial governments, the adoption of similar legislation to that taken by British Columbia makes it possible in particular to encourage the application by the court of legal regimes adapted to the situation and similar for all, indicated the spokesperson for the Quebec Ministry of Health, Marie-Claude Lacasse, in an email to The Canadian Press.
With information from Charlotte Dumoulin
With information from The Canadian Press