As the opioid crisis rages on, a billion-dollar lawsuit is aiming to hold a variety of pharmaceutical companies responsible.
According to CBC, a class-action lawsuit was filed with Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench, despite the law firm pursuing the case being headquartered in Toronto.
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The lawsuit, which only became public knowledge recently, was filed at the end of December. It accuses a handful of pharmaceutical companies of failing to inform healthcare workers and patients about the risks associated with taking opioid, even when recommended and prescribed by a doctor.
Opioids are often prescribed to manage acute pain, such as after an accident and/or surgery, and are used to refer to a wide variety of drugs. Some of these are available legally by prescription, like oxycodone, morphine, and codeine, whereas others are illegal street drugs, such as heroin and fentanyl.
As Mayo Clinic explains, opioids are highly addictive and can lead to death if not used correctly.
The lawsuit claims opioid manufacturers have not done enough to emphasize these risks and are therefore responsible for the suffering and/or death of individuals who’ve developed opioid addiction in recent decades. It alleges some companies have gone so far as to release false or misleading statements regarding the safety and efficiency of opioids in treating pain.
Moreover, the lawsuit claims that these companies have specifically targeted family doctors and medical students, who regularly treat patients with chronic pain but don’t have the training required to verify the information the pharmaceutical companies are feeding them.
It also claims the manufactures directly funded and organized think-tanks as well as patient advocacy groups – which relied on questionable information – aimed at encouraging doctors to prescribe opioids for pain relief.
The lawsuit is looking for an eight-figure pay out, as it hopes to win more than $1.1 billion in damages, which would go directly to people who have suffered as the result of an opioid prescription dating all the way back to 1996.
So far, 35 different pharmaceutical companies have been named in the lawsuit, though not all of their identities have been released to the public.
The plaintiff behind the lawsuit is a physician – Dr. Darry Gebien, who practiced in Ontario, Canada. In court documents, Dr. Gebien explains he developed an addiction after being prescribed Percocet following a finger injury.
Dr. Gebien claims that the addiction has had a severe impact on his life – he lost his job, medical license, and custody of his children. He’s also been charged with drug trafficking.
This isn’t the first lawsuit Dr. Gebien has launched regarding the opioid crisis. In 2019, the same law firm filed a case in Ontario on similar grounds and looking for a billion-dollar settlement, with the physician as a plaintiff. Both cases remain ongoing.
Sources: CBC, Mayo Clinic, CTV,
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