“The Canadian Opioid Crisis: Legal Battle Unfolds Amid Pharmacy Benefit Manager Lawsuit”

The opioid crisis legal battle extends to pharmacy benefit managers, raising questions about accountability and prevention measures. #opioidcrisis #pharmacyBenefitManagers

The Canadian Opioid Crisis – A Legal Battle

In recent news, the opioid epidemic has taken a legal spin further south, with Arkansas suing two pharmacy benefit managers for their role in fuelling the state’s opioid crisis.

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Pharmacy Benefit Managers Held Accountable

Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBMs), entities who administer prescription drug plans on behalf of insurers and other sponsors, have found themselves in the hot seat. The Attorney General of Arkansas has turned his attention towards Express Scripts and CVS Health in the latest in a series of legal actions designed to address the opioid crisis. These entities have been accused of neglecting their duty to ensure the pharmacies they contract with are not over-dispensing opioids.

Implications for Canadian Pharmacy Benefit Managers

While this lawsuit is located in the US, the findings could have implications for similar entities and companies here in Canada. If big pharmacy chains can be held responsible for their role in the opioid crisis, then the question arises: What measures should be taken to prevent their Canadian counterparts from perpetuating the cycle of addiction and overdose?

Exploring the Canadian Opioid Crisis

Scope and Impact

The Canadian opioid crisis is a pressing public health issue, with overdose deaths reaching a record high.

  • As of 2020, there were an estimated 17 opioid-related deaths per day in Canada.
  • An elevated rate of opioid misuse has led to an increasing number of homeless individuals, creating ripple-effects throughout our communities. For instance, crime rates in certain regions have spiked as a direct result of opioid abuse.
  • The issue has also been labelled a ‘public health emergency’ in some provinces.
  • The opioid epidemic has consequently placed a substantial burden on public health infrastructure in Canada.

Tackling the Opioid Crisis: Actions Taken So Far

To combat the opioid crisis, a multi-pronged approach on several levels, ranging from local communities to federal government intervention, has been adopted.

  • A robust public health response, which includes increasing access to naloxone – a medication used to block the effects of opioids, particularly in overdose instances.
  • Provinces such as British Columbia have also initiated a province-wide opioid class action lawsuit against several pharmaceutical companies. The claim alleges that these companies downplayed the addiction risk of opioids in their marketing strategies.

A Lesson and A Call to Action

While lawsuits such as the one in Arkansas might not directly affect our Ottawa neighbourhoods or Toronto city streets, they set a precedent. They teach us that for a comprehensive approach to the opioid crisis, it is critical to consider the responsibility of big pharmacy chains and their role in this crisis. This lawsuit is a step forward, holding key players in the pharmaceutical industry accountable for fuelling the opioid epidemic.

On a Community Level

As community leaders, our actions play a vital role in addressing the opioid crisis. We must continue to promote drug abuse prevention education and support local initiatives to fight opioid overprescription and addiction. Our combined efforts can use this precedent as a springboard to demand more responsibility from corporations and institutions engrained in our healthcare system.


As we grapple with the opioid crisis, it is clear that a comprehensive and multi-dimensional strategy is needed. Actions such as the lawsuit in Arkansas are a spotlight on the complexity and scale of the problem, pointing to the pivotal role that big pharmaceuticals have played in inadvertently fuelling the opioid crisis. It also serves as a reminder that accountability and corporate responsibility are vital in any effective response. As Canada continues to deal with this crisis, these lessons will undoubtedly come in handy.


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