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Manitoba government plans to join class-action suit against opioid makers

The Manitoba Government has introduced legislation that would enable the province to join a class-action lawsuit against opioid manufacturers. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Patrick Sison

The government of Manitoba wants to join other provinces in a class-action lawsuit against opioid manufacturers.

The government says it has introduced legislation that would allow the province to join a lawsuit launched by British Columbia to pursue claims in the bankruptcy of Purdue Pharma.

Read more: Winnipeg streets seeing increase of deadly opioid cocktails

The suit, launched in August 2018, names more than 40 manufacturers, wholesalers and distributors of opioids in Canada, and alleges that drugmakers 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 in a government release.

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“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.”

British Columbia’s suit seeks to recover costs from manufacturers and distributors dating back to 1996, when the pain drug OxyContin was introduced in the Canadian market. Similar legislation has been passed in Ontario, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Nova Scotia.

Read more: Ontario passes bill to join B.C.-led class-action lawsuit against opioid manufacturers

None of the allegations made in the lawsuit have been tested in court.

In the release, the province says the proposed legislation builds on “recent investments in prevention, support and recovery, with a special focus on children and youth.”

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“It is clear that more Manitobans require supports for mental health and addictions issues,” said Health, Seniors and Active Living Minister Cameron Friesen.

“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.”

Read more: Opioid crisis lawsuit sees drugmakers, distributors reach $260M settlement

No statement of defence could be found on the B.C. Supreme Court website Thursday, but Purdue Pharma Inc., which makes OxyContin, has previously said it followed all of Health Canada’s regulations and it’s very concerned about the opioid crisis in B.C. and across Canada.

—With files from The Canadian Press

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