Helen Jennens poses for a photograph in Vancouver, B.C., on Monday January 8, 2018. Helen Jennens is supporting New Democrat member of Parliament Don Davies’ calls for the federal government to launch a criminal investigation against the manufacturers of opioids that are fueling an overdose crisis and to pursue compensation for addiction treatment. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

B.C. mom backs MP’s calls for criminal probe of opioid manufacturers

Helen Jennens is supporting a MP’s calls for the federal government to launch a criminal investigation against the manufacturers of opioids

A woman whose son fatally overdosed after becoming addicted to the painkiller OxyContin is backing a New Democrat member of Parliament’s calls for the federal government to launch a criminal investigation of opioid manufacturers.

Related: B.C. MP calls for criminal probe into drug manufacturers of opioids

Helen Jennens said families that have lost loved ones to an ongoing epidemic want accountability for the actions of any company that profits from allegedly hiding or minimizing the addictive impact of opioids.

New Democrat MP Don Davies said the federal government should also pursue compensation for the cost of treating addiction in a country that is the second-leading user of opioids, after the United States.

Jennens was among what she estimated to be about 2,000 litigants in a class-action lawsuit that resulted in a $20-million settlement against Purdue Pharma (Canada). A Saskatchewan judge recently rejected the settlement, saying it was inadequate.

The case launched in 2007 and involved people across the country.

“It was ridiculous,” Jennens said Thursday about the settlement. “I was glad the judge turned it down.”

Related: Empathy and love shared during Overdose Awareness Day

A federal investigation could lead to a government lawsuit against Purdue, sending a message to drug companies and the public, said Jennens, whose son Tyler Leinweber died in January 2016 from fentanyl-laced heroin after he became addicted to OxyContin prescribed for an injury.

Purdue Pharma has paid out $634 million in fines in the United States after a federal court ruled it had an aggressive and misleading marketing campaign related to OxyContin. The pharmaceutical giant claimed the narcotic painkiller posed a lower risk of abuse and addiction compared with other drugs such as Percocet.

Davies said 100 lawsuits are ongoing against Purdue in the U.S. at the federal, state, city and county levels, with multiple states joining forces to recoup costs for addiction treatment.

“Canada’s federal government has neither launched a criminal investigation nor sought meaningful compensation for the public costs of this crisis,” he told a news conference Thursday, adding that health-care costs of addiction across the country amounted to about $1 billion between 2011 and 2016.

“I’m looking for (the government) to investigate behaviour, and I think that’s Health Canada’s responsibility, for any product that is marketed to Canadians.”

Health Canada said it is not currently considering an investigation into Purdue’s marketing practices but has closely noted the outcome of U.S. proceedings against the company and its misleading advertising of OxyContin to health-care professionals.

Action would be taken if Health Canada determines an advertisement poses a significant safety concern or contravenes its regulations or the Food and Drugs Act, the department said in a statement.

If charges against Purdue had been pursued in Canada, the maximum penalty imposed by a court would have been $5,000 per offence, the statement said. It also noted that penalties have since increased to $5 million per offence, though a court could levy any fine against a company recklessly causing serious risk of injury.

Purdue Pharma (Canada) said in a statement that it markets its products in accordance with Health Canada’s regulations and the Food and Drugs Act.

“Canadians are facing a complex public health issue in which all stakeholders, including the pharmaceutical industry, have a role to play to provide practical and sustainable solutions,” the statement said.

“Unfortunately, misuse and abuse and diversion of pain medications can lead to tragic consequences, including addiction, overdose and death.”

Dr. Nav Persaud, a family physician and researcher at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, said a criminal investigation should be launched in Canada to determine if false claims led to a continuing overdose crisis that has also had a devastating impact in the U.S.

“The same medications are sold here for the same conditions so it would be very surprising if the inappropriate marketing stopped at the Canadian border,” said Persaud, who has spoken out against the misleading marketing of opioids.

British Columbia’s Health Ministry said the province has led efforts to recover tobacco-related health-care costs and is considering its options related to treatment of addiction.

“In light of the decision in Saskatchewan, the province is considering what options are available to recover its health-care costs from Purdue,” the ministry said in a statement.

Over 4,000 people fatally overdosed in Canada last year.

Related: B.C. mom whose two sons overdosed urges doctors to check prescription history

Camille Bains, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Revelstoke donated time, money and food in annual Emergency Services Food Drive

Over 300 volunteers got together last week for the annual Emergency Services… Continue reading

Revelstoke city council brings forward proposed cannabis framework

Four bylaws amended that will allow retail sales and production in the city

LUNA Q&A: Revelstokian Nicolas Houle painting herons

See everyday spaces transformed in the night at the second annual LUNA… Continue reading

Reach a Reader: Help Revelstoke literacy association share the love of reading

October is the Columbia Basin Alliance for Literacy’s annual Books for Kids campaign

Weekday weather update

A look at your Okanagan-Shuswap weekday weather for Sept. 24

Canada aiming for the moon, and beyond, with new space technology efforts

With an eye on future lunar exploration, Canada’s space agency is calling on companies to present their ideas for everything from moon-rover power systems to innovative mineral prospecting techniques.

New Brunswick Premier meets with lieutenant-governor as Tories, Liberals vie for power

New Brunswick Premier Brian Gallant said the only other leader he had spoken with since results came in was Green Leader David Coon.

Trudeau looks to restart Canada’s UN charm offensive in New York City

Freeland says the question of job retraining in the 21st century — and the uncertainty that surrounds it — is the federal government’s central preoccupation.

Calgary mayor seeks person who leaked details of closed-door Olympic meeting

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi says he will ask the city’s integrity commissioner to investigate a leak of details from an in-camera council meeting.

B.C. MP Cannings spared brunt of Ottawa tornadoes

MP Richard Cannings was spared the impact of the tornadoes that hit the Ottawa region

Edmonton cannabis company revenues more than triples to $19.1 million

Aurora Cannabis revenues more than triple in fourth quarter

B.C. pharmacist suspended for giving drugs with human placenta

RCMP had samples of the seized substances tested by Health Canada

Seattle one step closer to NHL after arena plan approved

Seattle City Council unanimously approved plans for a privately funded $700 million renovation of KeyArena

Most Read