21st September 2023

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A London law firm is marking a milestone in a multimillion-dollar class action settlement for people who became addicted to two prescription pain killers, a long-awaited development 16 years in the making.

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Siskinds LLP and three other partner firms now are seeking people who faced alleged harms from OxyContin and OxyNEO to file a claim after finalizing a $20-million settlement with Purdue Pharma and other defendants.

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“There are hundreds of people, perhaps thousands, that are likely to apply to this settlement,” said James Boyd, an associate lawyer at Siskinds involved in the class action. “It’s been a long process and there are a lot of Canadians that have been waiting eagerly for a long period of time.”

The litigation, launched by Siskinds in 2007, is one of the longest-running class action files in the London firm’s history, Boyd said.

The settlement was reached in principle 2016, Boyd said, but it took years for the deal to receive the required court approval in all four provinces – Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia and Saskatchewan.

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Along the way, the process was plagued by unforeseen challenges, from Purdue Pharma’s bankruptcy proceedings in the United States to pandemic-related setbacks, he said.

“All of these things combined resulted in the settlement not receiving its final approval from Saskatchewan from when the first approvals were granted in 2017,” Boyd said.

The amount – minus court-approved class counsel fees, disbursements and interest totaling about $6.3 million – will be divided among eligible class action members based on a series of criteria. People must make a claim before Feb. 27, 2024.

Not everyone who comes forward will be eligible for compensation as part of the Canada-wide settlement, Boyd said. The claims administrator will evaluate each case to see if they qualify.

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The class action only covers Canadian residents with active, valid prescriptions for the drugs between Jan. 1, 1996, and Feb. 28, 2017. Family members and the estates of individuals who became addicted or suffered other alleged harms are also able to make a claim.

Purdue Pharma and the other defendants in the Canadian class action settlement deny the allegations made in the lawsuits, are not admitting the truth of the allegations and deny any wrongdoing.

Purdue Pharma Canada and Purdue Pharma Inc. did not reply to request for comment Monday.

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The drug maker has faced several investigations and criminal charges in the United States for its role in the opioid crisis.

In 2020, the company pleaded guilty to three criminal charges over the handling of its painkiller OxyContin, including conspiring to defraud American officials and paying illegal kickbacks to doctors in a bid to keep prescriptions flowing.

While the launch of the claim process in Canada is an important step forward in the class action, Boyd said it will still take time for compensation to reach the people affected.

“It’s a bit of a lengthy process, in terms of the assessment. There are various steps involved and there is an appeal process,” he said, adding the first payments won’t likely be made until 2025 at the earliest.

“The money will take a little bit more time to ultimately make its way to victims and their families, but it’s no longer a question about if it’s going to happen, it’s just a matter of when.”

More information about the class action is available by clicking here.

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