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Alberta’s April opioid deaths are declining but still higher than pre-pandemic level

Click to play video: 'Alberta harm reduction advocates criticize latest opioid numbers: ‘It’s far too early to really celebrate’' Alberta harm reduction advocates criticize latest opioid numbers: ‘It’s far too early to really celebrate’
The province has released updates numbers for drug poisoning deaths in Alberta, suggesting headway is being made. However, advocates say the data was cherry picked and the situation is still dire. Breanna Karstens-Smith reports. – Jun 3, 2022

Opioid-related deaths in Alberta are declining but still remain higher than pre-pandemic levels.

On Wednesday, the Alberta government reported that 113 people died from opioid fatalities in April, a seven per cent decrease since March and a 34 per cent decrease since November.

But data from the province’s substance use surveillance system shows that’s a 4.62 per cent increase since April 2021 and a 41.25 per cent increase since April 2020.

Read more: Alberta’s opioid-related overdoses still at record highs compared to pre-pandemic

Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Mike Ellis claims the decrease in opioid-related deaths is due to the province’s “recovery-oriented” addictions and mental health care.

“Alberta’s government remains cautiously optimistic as opioid-related deaths declined again in April,” Ellis said in a statement on Wednesday.

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“I want to thank the countless treatment professionals, outreach and harm reduction workers, EMS, police, corrections, doctors and nurses who work tirelessly to save people’s lives.”

The news comes after a settlement was reached with opioid manufacturer Purdue Pharma in the B.C.-led class-action lawsuit linked to the overdose crisis.

Read more: Opioid crisis: $150M settlement reached in B.C.-led lawsuit to recoup health-care costs

The company agreed to pay $150 million in response to the lawsuit to recover health-care costs related to the sale and marketing of opioid-based pain medication. The lawsuit was launched in 2018 on behalf of all federal, provincial and territorial governments in Canada.

B.C. alleges that opioid manufacturers, distributors and their consultants engaged in “deceptive” marketing practices with a view to increase sales, resulting in increased rates of addiction and overdose.

“B.C.’s efforts to negotiate this unique settlement, together with other Canadian governments, paves the way for additional settlements to be reached in the ongoing litigation against other manufacturers and distributors of opioid products,” said B.C.’s Attorney General David Eby on Wednesday.

–With files from Richard Zussman, Global News.

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