CHARLESTON — West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey and a coalition of 41 other AGs have filed an antitrust lawsuit against the makers of Suboxone, a prescription drug used to treat heroin and opioid abuse.
The amended complaint, filed Nov. 16 in federal court in the Eastern Division of Pennsylvania, claims MonoSol Rx and Reckitt Benckiser Pharmaceuticals, now known as Indivior, violated state and federal antitrust laws by engaging in a scheme to block generic competitors and cause purchasers to pay artificially high prices.
It says Reckitt conspired with MonoSol Rx to switch Suboxone from a tablet version to a film, which dissolves in the mouth, to prevent or delay generic alternatives and maintain monopoly profits.
“Opioid addiction’s toll is steep enough without anti-competitive behavior that artificially increases the cost of potential solutions,” Morrisey said. “Government officials must consider every tool in fighting this battle. This lawsuit looks to provide relief to consumers and decrease the financial price of treatment.”
Reckitt, which introduced tablet Suboxone in 2002, had exclusivity protection for seven years, during which generic versions could not enter the market.
But prior to its expiration, the lawsuit contends, Reckitt worked with MonoSol to create the dissolvable film version, similar in size to a breath strip, and allegedly converted the market away from the tablet through marketing, price adjustments and other methods.
Once the majority of Suboxone prescriptions were written for the film, the lawsuit alleges Reckitt removed the tablet from the U.S. market.
The lawsuit also contends the Suboxone film provided no real added benefit and Reckitt continued to sell the tablets in other countries.
The AGs allege consumers and purchasers have paid artificially high monopoly prices since late 2009, a timespan for which annual sales of Suboxone topped $1 billion.
The lawsuit asks the court to restore competition, stop the companies from engaging in anticompetitive conduct and order appropriate relief for consumers and the states.
West Virginia joined the Wisconsin-led coalition along with Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Columbia, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia and Washington.
U.S. District Court, Eastern Division of Pennsylvania case number 2:16-cv-5073