|September 23, 2016
Contact: Whitney Ray
Phone: (850) 245-0150
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla.—Attorney General Pam Bondi and 35 other attorneys general today filed legal action against the makers of Suboxone, a prescription drug used to treat opioid addiction. The legal action is based on allegations that the drug companies engaged in a scheme to block generic competitors and caused purchasers to pay artificially high prices. Reckitt Benckiser Pharmaceuticals, now known as Indivior, is accused of conspiring with MonoSol Rx to switch Suboxone from a tablet to a film in order to prevent or delay generic alternatives and maintain monopoly profits. The companies are accused of violating both state and federal antitrust laws.
“These anticompetitive actions hurt consumers struggling with drug addiction by keeping the price of a drug that could help them artificially high. With today’s multistate action, we are asking the court to hold these drug companies accountable,” said Attorney General Bondi.
Suboxone is a brand-name prescription drug used to treat heroin addiction and other opioid addictions by easing addiction cravings. No generic alternative to Suboxone film is currently available.
When Reckitt introduced the tablet form of Suboxone in 2002, Reckitt had exclusivity protection that lasted for seven years, meaning no generic version could enter the market during that time. According to the complaint, before the seven years ended, Reckitt worked with MonoSol to create a new version of Suboxone, a dissolvable film similar in size to a breath strip. Reckitt allegedly converted the market away from the tablet to the film through marketing, price adjustments and other methods. After the majority of Suboxone prescriptions were written for the film, Reckitt removed the tablet form from the U.S. market.
The multistate complaint alleges that this conduct is illegal product hopping. Illegal product hopping is 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 action, the Suboxone film provided no real benefit better than that of 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 the Food and Drug Administration’s approval of generic versions of Suboxone.
As a result of Reckitt’s alleged actions, consumers and purchasers 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 legal action, 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, including the Florida Antitrust Act and the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act.
Attorney General Bondi, 34 other states and the District of Columbia are asking the court to stop the companies from engaging in anticompetitive conduct, to restore competition and to order appropriate relief for consumers and the states, plus costs and fees.
In addition to Florida, participants in the joint action include: Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin.