Oxycontin manufacturer seeks to appeal decision against $20m settlement

Presiding judge in Saskatchewan said he was ‘not yet satisfied’ that the settlement was adequate

Oxycontin manufacturer seeks to appeal decision against $20m settlement

Purdue Pharma, the manufacturer of oxycontin, has been approaching courts in different provinces to get approval for a $20-million class-action settlement. Under the terms of the agreement, the firm would admit no liability in the hundreds of cases of patients becoming addicted to the drug it manufactured and sold.

Courts in Nova Scotia, Ontario, and Quebec have already signed off on the agreement. But in a March 15 decision, a judge in Saskatchewan rejected the company’s request, according to CBC News.

In his decision, the Honourable Judge Brian Barrington-Foote said he was “not yet satisfied” that the proposed agreement satisfied the legal requirements for approval of a class-action settlement: that it be “fair, reasonable,” or in the best interests of the aggrieved parties.

Barrington-Foote’s doubts revolved around two core issues: whether the provinces and territories had properly signed off on the final settlement terms, and whether the amount of compensation properly accounted for the costs of treatment, rehabilitation, and loss of income for those who had become addicted to the drug.

The proposed settlement would have Purdue paying $18 million to all eligible claimants, plus $2 million total to the 13 provincial and territorial health insurers for healthcare provided to those covered by the settlement.

The judge invited the lawyers pushing the settlement to try again with additional information that would address his concerns. But on Monday, representatives for Purdue Pharma filed a request to for a court date on July 11 to appeal Barrington-Foote’s decision.

“I think it suggests an interest on Purdue's part in shoring up this proposed settlement as quickly as possible, in order to try to stave off other possible actions, whether reopening settlement negotiations and/or the other options potentially available to provincial, territorial and federal governments” said Matthew Herder, director of the Health Law Institute at Dalhousie University, in an email to CBC News.

Dr. Hakique Virani, a public health specialist at the University of Alberta and addiction physician at an Edmonton clinic, agreed with Barrington-Foote’s misgivings on the compensation amount. He cited the costs of addiction that he’s seen firsthand, including wasted careers, lost employment and income, rehab treatment expenses that can run in the tens of thousands, and a lifelong struggle to stay clean.

“I don't know how you assign a number to all of those things, but … [a decent estimate is] it's in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not millions of dollars, the cost to an individual and their family,” Virani said.


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