Md. joins suit against re­cov­ery-drug maker as opi­oid over­doses rise


Cap­i­tal News Ser­vice

— At­tor­ney Gen­eral Brian E. Frosh joined 35 other at­tor­neys gen­eral in fil­ing a multi-ju­ris­dic­tional law­suit Thurs­day ac­cus­ing the mak­ers of Subox­one, an opi­oid ad­dic­tion treat­ment, of con­spir­acy to mo­nop­o­lize and il­le­gal re­straint of trade.

Bri­tish phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pany In­di­v­ior, which man­u­fac­tures the drug, al­legedly kept generic ver­sions of the drug from com­pet­ing with its tablet form, caus­ing con­sumers and pur­chasers to pay “ar­ti­fi­cially high monopoly prices since late 2009,” ac­cord­ing to a state­ment from Frosh’s of­fice.

The opi­oid epi­demic con­tin­ues to swell, tak­ing an av­er­age of 78 Amer­i­can lives each day, ac­cord­ing to the U.S. Depart­ment of Health and Hu­man Ser­vices, and in­creas­ing steadily from year to year in Mary­land.

Be­tween Jan­uary and June of this year, 920 peo­ple died of opi­oid over­doses in Mary­land, a sig­nif­i­cant in­crease from the 601 over­dose-re­lated deaths that oc­curred in the same time frame last year, ac­cord­ing to the state’s Depart­ment of Health and Men­tal Hy­giene.

Subox­one oc­cu­pies opi­oid re­cep­tors, help­ing to re­duce crav­ings and keep re­cov­er­ing users from suf­fer­ing with­drawal symp­toms.

“The de­fen­dants in this case have preyed on a vul­ner­a­ble pop­u­la­tion—men and women try­ing (to) over­come the scourge of opi­oid ad­dic­tion,” said Frosh in the state­ment. “Free and fair com­pe­ti­tion is nec­es­sary to keep drug prices af­ford­able and to keep much-needed pre­scrip­tion drugs ac­ces­si­ble to those who rely on them for treat­ment.”


Mean­while, In­di­v­ior saw more than $1 bil­lion in net rev­enue in 2015, and Subox­one main­tained an av­er­age of 59 per­cent of the mar­ket share in the U.S. in 2015, ac­cord­ing to the com­pany’s an­nual re­port.

In­di­v­ior, then called Reckitt Benckiser Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals, orig­i­nally re­leased Subox­one in the form of tablets in 2002, and se­cured a seven-year pe­riod of ex­clu­siv­ity pro­tec­tion, mean­ing no generic al­ter­na­tive could en­ter the mar­ket dur­ing that time.

The com­pany con­tin­ued to de­velop the film form of Subox­one, which was ap­proved by the FDA in Au­gust 2010. The film re­sem­bles breath­mint strips, while generic al­ter­na­tive tablets were not on the mar­ket.

Through a se­ries of un­founded safety con­cerns to the Food and Drug Ad­min­is­tra­tion, the at­tor­neys gen­eral al­leged in their law­suit, the phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pany in­ter­fered in the sale of generic ver­sions of Subox­one tablets un­til it even­tu­ally re­moved the tablet from the mar­ket com­pletely, leav­ing con­sumers vir­tu­ally no choice but to use the com­pany’s film.

“The al­leged scheme the de­fen­dants uti­lized de­nied con­sumers the choice of a generic ver­sion of Subox­one,” Penn­syl­va­nia At­tor­ney Gen­eral Bruce Beemer said. “This con­duct forced con­sumers to pay more for Subox­one and se­verely lim­ited their op­tions for treat­ing their opi­oid ad­dic­tions.”

In­di­v­ior re­ceived no­tice of the suit, which is be­ing brought by 35 states and the Dis­trict of Columbia, and re­leased a state­ment ac­knowl­edg­ing the al­le­ga­tions Fri­day.

“The Com­pany in­tends to con­tinue to vig­or­ously de­fend its po­si­tion,” In­di­v­ior wrote.

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