Indivior marketed Suboxone as less addictive than it really is, according to court records.
The United States Department of Justice charged Indivior, the maker of Suboxone, with fraud and conspiracy. The company was originally established as the buprenorphine division of Reckitt Benckiser in 1994. Then, in December 2014, Reckitt Benckiser spun off its specialty pharmaceuticals into a separate company named Indivior. Federal prosecutors indicted the company on charges related to its marketing of opioid products including Suboxone. The company allegedly created a “nationwide scheme in the U.S. designed to convince doctors and government insurance providers that Indivior’s patented opioid medications are safer and less prone to abuse than cheaper generic alternatives.”
Suboxone, a combination of buprenorphine and naloxone, has been marketed as a treatment drug that helps people who are addicted to opioids, and yet it actually contains opioids. The drug is used to treat withdrawal symptoms by delivering doses of both drugs which decrease discomfort. But federal prosecutors say the drug itself is prone to abuse.
The Partnership for Drug-free Kids states, “Prescription opioids are powerful drugs with a high risk for dependency. Taking them in high doses, and/or in combination with other substances — particularly alcohol — can result in life-threatening respiratory distress and death.” A disclaimer for Suboxone clearly states that the drug “is a controlled substance (CIII) because it contains buprenorphine, which can be a target for people who abuse prescription medicines or street drugs.”
Brian Mann, North Country Public Radio reporter, contends federal prosecutors are suggesting “this British company lied about the safety of Suboxone, claiming it was less prone to abuse. And the allegation here, really, is that Indivior’s deceptive claims convinced a lot of health providers and insurers, like Medicare and Medicaid, to spend billions of dollars on their patented version of Suboxone rather than buying much cheaper, generic versions of the medication. An investigation by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) found Suboxone isn’t actually safer. In fact, it may even be riskier in a lot of cases.”
“The indictment alleges that, rather than marketing its opioid-addiction drug responsibly, Indivior promoted it with a disregard for the truth about its safety and despite known risks of diversion and abuse,” confirmed Assistant Attorney General Jody Hunt.
Since Suboxone is used widely to treat opioid abuse, withdrawal, and long-term maintenance, the investigation is considered breaking news which could affect a number of patients and their families.
“Suboxone itself contains opioids, and that means people sometimes abuse it too. And prosecutors say Indivior boosted profits illegally by setting up a system that connected people suffering from addiction with crooked doctors who were overprescribing Suboxone,” Mann said.
Indivior released a detailed rebuttal to the charges, claiming the U.S. Justice Department is wrong on the science and on the facts. “They say they’ve been an important and responsible player helping respond to the opioid crisis,” Mann explained.
Indivior promised it will “contest this case vigorously. We look forward to the full facts coming out in court,” according to the statement released.
“Federal prosecutors say if Indivior is found guilty in this case, the company should forfeit $3 billion. And the promise…is that a lot of that money will go to help with drug treatment for…things like rehab programs and law enforcement,” Mann said.