Thirty-six state attorneys general, including Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring, accused the makers of an anti-opiate addiction drug on Friday of blocking generic competition and causing consumers to pay artificially high prices since late 2009.
The action centers around Suboxone, a prescription drug that treats heroin and other opiate addiction by mitigating cravings associated with withdrawal. The lawsuit alleges that Reckitt Benckiser Pharmaceuticals and Indivior, the manufacturers of Suboxone, enaged in a “product hopping” scheme in violation of federal and state antitrust laws, according to a release.
Specifically, the state AGs contend, the manufacturers allegedly conspired with MonoSol Rx LLC to extend Suboxone patent protections by changing the drug from a tablet taken orally into a film that dissolves in the mouth. The film version provided no meaningful benefit to consumers over the tablet, the lawsuit alleges, and Reckitt continued to sell the tablets outside the U.S. after removing them from the domestic market.
“For many Virginians struggling with an addiction to heroin and other opioids, Suboxone can be an important part of a treatment plan that allows them to manage their substance abuse disorder,” Herring said in the release. “After extensive investigation, my colleagues and I have reason to believe that these monopoly practices violated the law and made this important medication more expensive and more difficult to maintain.”
The makers’ objective was to prevent or delay generic alternatives and preserve the profits stemming from a monopoly, since there is no generic version of Suboxone film, the release says.
Due to the makers’ allegedly anticompetitive conduct, consumers have paid artificially high prices since late 2009, when generic options might otherwise have become available, the attorneys general allege.
The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, asks the court to block the companies from engaging in anticompetitive conduct, to restore competition and to order appropriate relief for customers and the states, including costs and fees.