NC Attorney General Contends Drug makers conspired to keep addiction treatment price high

NC Attorney General Contends Drug makers conspired to keep addiction treatment price high

By / State News / Tuesday, 27 September 2016 04:00

RALEIGH, N.C. : September 23rd, 2016 - Consumers and other buyers paid too much for addiction treatment drug Suboxone because its makers conspired to keep prices unlawfully high, Attorney General Roy Cooper alleged in a lawsuit filed last week.
North Carolina and 35 other states have filed an antitrust lawsuit against the makers of Suboxone, a prescription drug used to treat opioid addiction, over allegations that the companies engaged in a scheme to block generic competitors and keep the drug’s price artificially high.
“Gaming the system to charge higher prices on needed medications is wrong,” Cooper said. “Prescription drug abuse is a serious problem in North Carolina and those trying to recover from it suffer if artificially high costs make it harder for them to get treatment.”
The attorneys general allege that their investigation shows consumers and other purchasers such as local law enforcement and emergency medical services paid artificially high prices for Suboxone since late 2009, when generic alternatives would have become available without the illegal interference. During that time, annual sales of Suboxone topped $1 billion.
In the lawsuit filed Thursday, 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. Cooper and the other attorneys general contend these actions violated state and federal antitrust laws.
As explained in the lawsuit, when Reckitt introduced Suboxone in tablet form in 2002 it was protected from any generic version being offered for seven years. Before those seven years expired, 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 used marketing, price adjustments and other methods to get health care providers to prescribe the film instead of the tablet.  Once the majority of Suboxone prescriptions were written for the film, Reckitt took the tablet off the market in the U.S.
The attorneys general allege that this conduct was an illegal attempt to extend patent protections and keep other companies from offering more affordable generic alternatives to Suboxone. 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.

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