Pro­vin­ces must act to pre­vent anot­her Oxy­Con­tin de­ba­cle

Two so­lu­tions to in­crea­se phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal ma­nu­fac­tu­rers’ ac­coun­ta­bi­lity to Ca­na­dians and their go­vern­ments

La Jornada (Canada) - - ENGLISH SECTION -

The 10 pro­vin­cial go­vern­ments re­cently ac­cep­ted a class-ac­tion settle­ment with Pur­due Phar­ma, the ma­ker of Oxy­Con­tin. The settle­ment con­cerns the mis­lea­ding claims Pur­due Phar­ma alle­gedly ma­de to phy­si­cians about the ad­dic­ti­ve na­tu­re of the drug. The­se claims may ha­ve con­tri­bu­ted to Ca­na­da’s epi­de­mic of opioid ad­dic­tion. num­ber of evi­den­tial and pro­ce­du­ral ru­les fa­ci­li­ta­ting re­co­very of com­pen­sa­tion for such costs. For ins­tan­ce, they can pro­vi­de for a re­ver­se bur­den of proof so that it’s up to the de­fen­dant ma­nu­fac­tu­rer to pro­ve that its ac­tions didn’t gi­ve ri­se to the di­sea­se for which the pro­vin­ce claims ex­pen­di­tu­res.

Alt­hough cer­tain as­pects of the­se laws would ha­ve to be mo­di­fied, the key prin­ci­ple would be the same: the pro­vin­ce could di­rectly start a le­gal ac­tion to re­co­ver the health-ca­re costs re­la­ted to the wrong­ful ac­tions of drug ma­nu­fac­tu­rers. The Su­pre­me Court of Ca­na­da con­fir­med the cons­ti­tu­tio­na­lity of to­bac­co re­co­very laws in 2005.

The se­cond pro­po­sal is to ma­ke it ea­sier for more Ca­na­dians to suc­ceed in class-ac­tion law­suits. Class ac­tions allow clai­mants to join to sue a party and, as a re­sult, re­du­ce in­di­vi­dual li­ti­ga­tion costs. Que­bec, the country’s most pro­gres­si­ve pro­vin­ce re­gar­ding con­su­mer pro­tec­tion, has ma­de class ac­tions more ac­ces­si­ble by lo­we­ring the bur­den im­po­sed on clai­mants who wish to bring a suit for harm they’ve suf­fe­red. Un­li­ke the com­mon law pro­vin­ces, Que­bec’s pro­ce­du­ral ru­les ma­ke it ea­sier for clai­mants to achie­ve class-ac­tion sta­tus. Clai­mants need only de­mons­tra­te that they ha­ve an ar­gua­ble ca­se and it’s as­su­med that the facts they alle­ge are true.

The­re’s a strong his­tory of suc­cess­ful class ac­tions in Que­bec. In­deed, a Que­bec court re­cently awar­ded $15 bi­llion in da­ma­ges to mem­bers of two class ac­tions laun­ched against the to­bac­co in­dustry for their fai­lu­re to warn con­su­mers about the health ef­fects of their pro­ducts. What’s nee­ded across Ca­na­da is a le­gal re­gi­me that has real con­se­quen­ces for phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pa­nies. Un­til we rai­se the costs as­so­cia­ted with wrong­doing, com­pa­nies will con­ti­nue to act with im­pu­nity - with real-li­fe con­se­quen­ces. And Ca­na­dians are left to pick up the health-ca­re tab. -TROYMEDIA

Va­nes­sa Gru­ben and Loui­se Bé­lan­ger-Hardy are mem­bers of the Cen­tre for Health Law, Po­licy and Et­hics and pro­fes­sors in the Fa­culty of Law at the Uni­ver­sity of Ot­ta­wa.

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