A coalition of state attorneys general has settled claims against drug distributor Reckitt Benckiser Group for $700 million. The multi-state investigation accused the company of improperly marketing Suboxone, which is a drug that helps recovering opioid addicts reduce their withdrawal symptoms.

The coalition of states claimed that Reckitt Benckiser engaged in improper marketing of the drug by knowingly promoting the drug to doctors and causing them to prescribe Suboxone to patients for uses that were unsafe, ineffective and medically unnecessary.

As a result, Reckitt Benckiser has been accused of causing false claims to be submitted to the government for Medicaid beneficiaries that were prescribed Suboxone, resulting in improper expenditures of state Medicaid funds. The company was also accused of making false claims about Suboxone Sublingual Film, which is another form of the drug. The active ingredient in Suboxone is buprenorphine, which is an opioid.

Suboxone was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to suppress opioid withdrawal symptoms. According to the New York Office of the Attorney General, from 2010 through 2014, Reckitt Benckiser marketed Suboxone to doctors who were writing prescriptions to patients without any counseling or psychosocial support, such that the prescriptions were either not safe, effective, or otherwise inappropriate for the patient.

The multistate investigation included allegations that Reckitt Benckiser submitted a petition to the FDA fraudulently claiming that it had discontinued manufacturing and selling Suboxone Sublingual Tablet “due to safety concerns” about the tablet formulation of the drug, and even actively took steps to fraudulently delay the entry of generic competition for various forms of Suboxone in order to illegally control pricing of Suboxone – including pricing to government health care programs. The multistate investigation also alleged that Reckitt Benckiser marketed Suboxone Sublingual Film based on false and misleading claims that it was less subject to diversion and abuse than other buprenorphine products and that it was less susceptible to accidental exposure to children than Suboxone Sublingual Tablets.

The multi-state investigation and settlement negotiations were led by the National Association of Medicaid Fraud Control Units, with representatives from several state attorneys general offices including California, Indiana, New York, Ohio, Virginia and Washington.

Lawyers in Beasley Allen’s Consumer Fraud & Commercial Litigation Section have represented clients, including at least 11 states through their attorney general’s office, in various health care and pharmaceutical litigation. Beasley Allen lawyers welcome the opportunity to investigate potential anticompetitive conduct, fraud, and other unfair and deceptive practices of which you may be aware. If you have any questions about our firm’s health care fraud practice, contact Ali Hawthorne, a lawyer in the Consumer Fraud & Commercial Litigation Section. Ali has been heavily involved in drug and health care litigation that included fraud and deception practices.

This story appears in the December 2019 issue of The Jere Beasley Report. For more like this, visit the Report online and subscribe.

Jere L. Beasley, Beasley Allen Founder
Jere Beasley

Jere Beasley, the founding member of Beasley Allen Law Firm, has practiced law as an advocate for victims of wrongdoing since 1962. He was the lead Beasley Allen attorney in the record $11.9 billion award against ExxonMobil Corp. on behalf of the state of Alabama.

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