The opioid reckoning is coming — will Big Pharma’s accomplices escape unpunished?
2019-08-12 from thestar.com
The legal assault against drugmakers allegedly complicit in the opioid crisis, the biggest drug epidemic in North American history, is so vast it can only be compared with Big Tobacco’s $256-billion (U.S.) settlement with U.S. authorities two decades ago.
And that is fitting, given the magnitude of malfeasance in the opioid crisis.
Opioid overdoses are estimated to have claimed the lives of more than 20,000 Canadians in the past two decades. U.S. authorities put the number of American lives lost to opioid addiction at 218,000 in the same period.
The death toll from opioid abuse has reduced longevity rates in Canada and the U.S. in each of the past three years.
A great reckoning awaits the drug industry. But many of its abettors will escape censure. More on that later.
Ontario and British Columbia have partnered in a class-action lawsuit against more than 40 drugmakers and wholesalers, including Purdue Pharma LP, whose OxyContin painkiller, launched in 1996, is the narcotic widely described as having triggered the opioid crisis.
Those same firms, add or subtract a few, are named in more than 4,000 U.S. lawsuits. Most of those legal actions have been brought by local, provincial and state governments, and by Indigenous tribes that have been especially hard hit in the opioid crisis.
This week, a coalition of U.S. attorneys general claimed $45 billion (U.S.) in damages from three drug-distribution firms alone, mere accessories in the crisis. In coming months, Big Pharma itself will be in the dock in an Ohio courtroom where many of the thousands of class-action lawsuits have been consolidated.
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