Opioid Treatment Drug Maker Accused of Conspiring to Keep Monopoly Profits
BATON ROUGE, LA – Attorney General Jeff Landry joined 35 other Attorneys General in filing an antitrust lawsuit against the makers of Suboxone, a prescription drug used to treat heroin and other opioid addictions.
Reckitt Benckiser Pharmaceuticals, now known as Indivior, is accused of conspiring with MonoSol Rx to switch Suboxone from a tablet version to a film that dissolves in the mouth in order to prevent or delay generic alternatives and maintain monopoly profits.
“In violation of state and federal laws, these companies preyed upon our neighbors in desperate need of help. They forced Louisiana consumers to pay artificially high prices by scheming to block their competitors,” said General Landry. “I will do all that I can to get justice, restore economic liberty, and seek relief for our State and her people.”
According to the lawsuit, when Reckitt introduced Suboxone in 2002 in tablet form, it had exclusivity protection that lasted for seven years – meaning no generic version could enter the market during that time. However, before that period ended, Reckitt worked with MonoSol to create a new version of Suboxone – a dissolvable film, similar in size to a breath strip. Over time, Reckitt allegedly converted the market away from the tablet to the film through marketing, price adjustments, and other methods. Ultimately, after the majority of Suboxone prescriptions were written for the film, Reckitt removed the tablet from the U.S. market.
General Landry and the other Attorneys General allege that this conduct was illegal “product hopping,” where a company makes modest changes to its product to extend patent protections so other companies cannot enter the market and offer cheaper generic alternatives. According to the suit, the Suboxone film provided no real benefit over the tablet and Reckitt continued to sell the tablets in other countries even after removing them from the U.S. market. Reckitt also allegedly expressed unfounded safety concerns about the tablet version, and intentionally delayed FDA approval of generic versions of Suboxone’s tablets.
As a result, the Attorneys General allege that consumers and purchasers have paid artificially high monopoly prices since late 2009 – when generic alternatives of Suboxone might otherwise have become available. During that time, annual sales of Suboxone topped $1 billion.
The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern Division of Pennsylvania, accuses the companies of violating the federal Sherman Act and state laws. Counts include conspiracy to monopolize and illegal restraint of trade.
General Landry was joined in the lawsuit by AG’s from Pennsylvania, Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, California, Colorado, District of Columbia, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin.