Unveiling the Opioid Crisis: PBMs Under Legal Fire for Fueling Epidemic

The Arkansas lawsuit targets Pharmacy Benefit Managers for fueling the opioid crisis, sparking a new perspective on combating the epidemic.

The Spider Web of Opioid Crisis: A Litigation against Pharmacy Benefit Managers

An article recently published on CityNews Toronto reported on a litigation filed by Arkansas state against two federal Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBMs), accusing them of massively contributing to the ongoing opioid crisis. In the wake of the report, it becomes imperative for us to consider how the opioid crisis has ensued and what preventative measures are being taken to combat this alarming situation in Canada.

The Opioid Crisis: A Snapshot

The opioid crisis has been a significant public health concern, especially in North America, for quite some time. It is a multifaceted problem characterized by widespread misuse and addiction to opioid drugs, leading to severe socio-economic impacts including increased crime rates, rising healthcare costs, and surge in homelessness. The crisis did not take shape overnight; rather, it has been a progressively escalating issue that traces back to the late 1990s.

The Effects of the Opioid Crisis

The impact of the opioid crisis has been widely destructive, affecting various sectors and demographic groups. Here are key observations:

  • Increased crime rates: This is directly linked to drug addiction, which often induces individuals to resort to illegal activities for procuring drugs or supporting their addiction.
  • Rising healthcare costs: This includes addiction treatments, emergency department visits, prison resident care and, notably, the cost of Naloxone – an opioid antagonist used to counter the effects of overdose.
  • Spike in homelessness: A significant fraction of the homeless population reportedly struggles with substance abuse, and opioids specifically have exacerbated this problem.
  • Amplified social inequality: The opioid crisis has notably widened the gap between different socio-economic classes, being disproportionately harsh on disadvantaged and marginalized communities.

Arkansas Lawsuit: A Step Forward

The opioid class action filed by Arkansas is commendable as it shifts the focus to an overlooked facet of the problem: the role of pharmaceutical corporations. Arkansas has accused two PBMs of causing and worsening the state’s opioid epidemic, pointing out their dubious role in the pricing, distribution, and consumption of opioids. This legal move could set a precedent for other states and countries, including Canada, to hold such corporations accountable.

Addressing the Opioid Crisis: Efforts So Far

The Canadian government has taken some substantial steps over the years to combat the opioid crisis. These include:

  • Introduction of regulations to monitor opioid prescriptions and reduce non-medical opioid use.
  • Investments in research and data collection to better understand the crisis and devise appropriate interventions.
  • Implementing harm reduction strategies and providing access to Naloxone kits to decrease opioid-related deaths.
  • Increasing funding for addiction treatment services and mental health support.

Way Forward: Further Steps to Consider

Despite these measures, there’s still a long way to go. Some potential actions that could be considered include:

  • Implementing stringent regulations on pharmaceutical corporations, as the Arkansas lawsuit suggests.
  • Enhancing opioid addiction education and prevention programmes, to target the issue at its root.
  • Increasing healthcare accessibility, particularly for marginalized communities disproportionately affected by the crisis.


In conclusion, the opioid crisis is a multi-pronged issue, demanding a comprehensive and inclusive approach for combat. The Arkansas opioid class action, aimed at PBMs, draws attention to an often overlooked aspect of the crisis, offering an alternative approach to Canada and the rest of the world. Stay tuned to learn more with us as we continue to follow the trajectory of this critical litigation and its potential impact on the ongoing opioid crisis.


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