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Canadian province to sue drug companies over opioids

VANCOUVER, British Columbia — The Canadian province of British Columbia has launched a proposed class-action lawsuit against dozens of pharmaceutical companies, alleging they falsely marketed opioids as less addictive than other pain drugs and helped trigger an overdose crisis that has killed thousands.

The lawsuit is the first of its kind in Canada and names OxyContin-maker Purdue Pharma Inc. and other major drug manufacturers. It also targets pharmacies, including Shoppers Drug Mart Corp. and its owner Loblaw Companies Ltd., claiming they should have known the quantities of opioids they were distributing exceeded any legitimate market.

Nearly 4,000 Canadians died from apparent opioid overdoses last year. British Columbia remained the province hardest hit by the opioid crisis, with 1,450 deaths, up from 974 in 2016. The province declared a public health emergency in 2016.