FREDERICTON (GNB) – The provincial government is exploring the possibility of launching or participating in a lawsuit related to the harmful effects of opioids and the resulting costs and impacts on New Brunswickers.

“We must continue our efforts to keep people from opioid abuse, and consider how best we can ensure that the pharmaceutical industry be held accountable for the health of New Brunswickers and the financial burden put on taxpayers for health-care costs,” said Health Minister Benoît Bourque.

At least 2,816 Canadians died from opioid-related causes in 2016, and that number was expected to have increased in 2017. In New Brunswick, at least 241 people have lost their lives from accidental opioid overdoses in the past 11 years.

“In addition to the tragic loss of life, the number of related emergency room visits has increased up to 10 times over the past five years,” said Bourque. “Increased health-care spending to address the crisis has been necessary to provide essential and immediate care for New Brunswickers.”

There is some evidence that pharmaceutical companies and distributors may have engaged in some activities that led to the opioid crisis, including deceptive advertising and misrepresentations about the addictiveness and effectiveness of these drugs.