Suboxone Makers Hit With Major Lawsuit

By McCarton Ackerman 09/29/16

Indivior is accused of violating antitrust laws to extend its monopoly on the popular medication.

Suboxone Makers Hit With Major Lawsuit

The maker of Suboxone is now staring down a major lawsuit from 35 states and the District of Columbia, which claims the company kept competing drugmakers out of the market for over a decade and artificially inflated prices as a result.

Delaware Public Media reported that the antitrust lawsuit was filed last week against Reckitt Benckiser Pharmaceuticals, now known as Indivior. The company had an exclusive right to sell Suboxone pills for seven years, beginning in 2002.

But just before that right expired, the lawsuit claims Reckitt began working with specialty pharmaceutical company MonoSol Rx to release a film strip version of the drug that dissolves inside the mouth. The company began marketing the film strip version as safer than the Suboxone pills, and even took its own pills off the market citing fabricated safety concerns, the lawsuit says.

By the time generic Suboxone pills were released, the company had already switched most doctors to the film strip version of the drug, according to CNN.

“Through their power over the marketplace, they caused the people who prescribe the medication to begin prescribing this new film strip, even though it doesn’t provide any additional medical benefits,” Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn told Delaware Public Media.

Indivior said in a statement that it plans to “vigorously defend its position” and prevail in court. But even if it does lose the lawsuit, it won’t be a crushing financial blow. Suboxone sales reportedly brought in more than $1 billion last year, more than both Adderall and Viagra.

Despite the questionable marketing methods, Suboxone has proven to be effective in treating drug addiction. A 2014 study from the Yale School of Medicine showed that ongoing medication-assisted treatment (MAT) with Suboxone is more effective than detoxification and abstinence alone.

In July, the White House expanded the number of patients that qualified physicians who prescribe buprenorphine can treat, from 100 to 275. However, this is a drop in the bucket compared to the number of people who need this treatment. Current national statistics show that only 12% of those who need treatment are able to access it.

Perhaps surprisingly, the Suboxone film strips have been creating problems inside many prisons. Public Safety officials in Maryland seized more than 2,100 strips in the first five months of this year. In July, state Medicaid officials removed it from its preferred list of medications and replaced it with Zubsolv, a pill-based treatment option.

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.

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