The opioid addiction crisis began decades ago, when high rates of opioid prescribing and dispensing became common across North America. Opioid manufacturers, wholesalers and distributors misrepresented the harmful effects and addictive nature of the medication, leading to increased rates of addiction and resulting in thousands of lives lost and substantial costs to Alberta’s health care system.

If passed, Bill 3, the Opioid Damages and Health Care Costs Recovery Amendment Act, 2023, will further strengthen Alberta’s position in current class actions to recover opioid-related health care costs and other damages. Alberta’s government will invest any future damages awarded back to the province into supports for those suffering from mental health challenges or the deadly disease of addiction in their pursuit of recovery.

“Today’s addiction crisis stems from the actions of opioid manufacturers, distributors and their consultants who sought to sell as much of these dangerous drugs as possible for their own profit. Their actions have resulted in billions of dollars of costs to Albertans, not to mention the devastating pain it has caused families and individuals suffering and dying from the deadly disease of addiction. We are committed to holding those responsible for starting this crisis accountable and believe it should be done with full support from the legislative assembly.”

Dan Williams, Minister of Mental Health and Addiction

During the fall 2019 legislative session, members of Alberta’s legislative assembly unanimously passed the Opioid Damages and Health Care Costs Recovery Act, 2019. The passing of this legislation supported Alberta’s participation in a national class-action lawsuit against manufacturers and distributors who contributed to the onset of the opioid addiction crisis.

Amendments within the Opioid Damages and Health Care Costs Recovery Amendment Act, 2023 include:

  • Adding “consultant” to the act to provide a case against those who provided advisory services to opioid manufacturers and wholesalers/distributors.
  • Including “active ingredient” in the definition of “opioid product” to provide more clarity that an active ingredient, itself, is an opioid product.
  • Amending the market share formula to distinguish between the market share of manufacturers and the market share of wholesalers and distributors to calculate damages more accurately, if awarded.

The proposed amendments align with the original act passed in 2019 and provide updates to best position Alberta in any legal proceedings.

Quick facts

  • In Aug. 2018, British Columbia brought a class action on its own behalf and on behalf of a class of other provincial and territorial governments against manufacturers and wholesalers/distributors of opioids.
  • On Oct. 15, 2019, the Government of Alberta announced that it would participate in B.C.’s proposed national class action and it would be introducing similar legislation.
  • On Dec. 5, 2019, Alberta passed the Opioid Damages and Health Care Costs Recovery Act, 2019.

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