The attorneys general of Connecticut and New York announced their respective states will be receiving funds as part of a $700 million settlement among a multistate coalition, the U.S. Department of Justice and pharmaceutical distributor Reckitt Benckiser Group that resolves charges that the company violated the federal and state laws through improper marketing and promotion of the drug Suboxone, resulting in improper expenditures of state Medicaid funds.
Suboxone is approved for use by recovering opioid addicts to avoid or reduce withdrawal symptoms while they undergo treatment. Suboxone and its active ingredient, buprenorphine support effective, evidence-based treatment of opioid use disorder when properly promoted and utilized.
The civil settlement covers the period from 2010 through 2014, when Reckitt Benckiser, either directly or through its subsidiaries, was accused of knowingly promoting the sale and use of Suboxone to doctors who were writing prescriptions to patients without any counseling or psychosocial support, without a medically accepted indication, and for uses that were unsafe, ineffective and medically unnecessary.
Reckitt Benckiser Group is a public limited company based in Slough, England.
The company is also accused of promoting the sale or use of Suboxone Sublingual Film based on false and misleading claims that the product was less subject to diversion and abuse than other buprenorphine products and that it was also less susceptible to accidental pediatric exposure than Suboxone Sublingual Tablets.
Furthermore, Reckitt Benckiser was accused of submitting a petition to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Sept. 25, 2012, that falsely claimed it discontinued manufacturing and selling Suboxone Sublingual Tablet “due to safety concerns” about the tablet formulation of the drug, and the company was charged with inappropriately encouraging the release of generic competition for various forms of Suboxone in order to improperly control pricing of Suboxone, including pricing to federal healthcare programs.
The multistate coalition covered all 50 states plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. Connecticut’s Medicaid program, a joint state-federal program, will receive $17.8 million as part of the settlement and an additional $1 million in recovery is allocated for Connecticut Department of Social Services’ state-funded programs. New York’s Medicaid program will receive more than $71.9 million in recoveries, with more than $39.9 million being returned to New York state.
“Reckitt Benckiser knowingly promoted the sale of suboxone for unsafe, ineffective and unnecessary purposes, reaping undue profits from states and the federal government while imperiling the lives of countless individuals,” said Connecticut Attorney General William Tong. “This agreement will return $18.8 million back to Connecticut’s Medicaid program, as well as DSS’ state-funded programs. This settlement sends a strong message that states across the nation are united in taking aggressive action against those who fraudulently and callously contributed to the opioid epidemic.”
“Pharmaceutical companies have a basic duty to ensure that they are properly disclosing and marketing powerful drugs,” New York Attorney General Letitia James said. “Reckitt misled the public about the real impacts of Suboxone and encouraged physicians to wrongly prescribe it, while cheating New York out of tens of millions of dollars in the process. No company is above the law and we will continue to take on anyone who takes advantage of the opioid crisis to increase their bottom line.”