April 30, 2015 Articles

Charlton: Causation Clobbers Canadian Class

By Cheryl Woodin and Court Peterson

The certification of drug product liability cases is not unusual in the Canadian common-law provinces, unlike the United States, but the British Columbia Court of Appeal reminds us in Charlton v. Abbott Laboratories Ltd., 2015 BCCA 4 (Can.), that the plaintiff must adduce evidence of a clear methodology for finding causation across the class in order to obtain certification.

In Charlton, a group of representative plaintiffs brought a class action against Apotex Inc. and Abbott Laboratories Ltd. on behalf of patients that had taken Meridia, a drug containing sibutramine. Sibutramine is a drug that was originally developed as an antidepressant, but it also suppresses appetite. In 2000, Health Canada approved the marketing by prescription of Meridia as a diet drug. At that time, Abbott began distributing and selling Meridia in Canada. In 2009, Abbott’s distribution rights expired, and Health Canada approved the application from Apotex to distribute a generic weight-loss drug that contained sibutramine. During that time period, a clinical trial was conducted between 2003 and 2009 that suggested that sibutramine increased the risk of cardiovascular events.

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