Virtually every state in the country has joined a lawsuit against MonoSol Rx and Indivior, formerly known as Reckitt Benckiser Pharmaceuticals. The multi-state lawsuit contends that these pharmaceutical companies colluded in an illegal scheme to keep the price of an addiction treatment medication called Suboxone artificially high.
Suboxone is classified as a prescription medication designed to treat opioid addiction. The lawsuit is based on anti-trust laws and is being pursued in federal court. Over 40 state’s attorneys general, together with the comparable official in the District of Columbia, have joined the lawsuit on behalf of their respective jurisdictions.
The lawsuit is brought pursuant to the federal Sherman Act and related state laws. The case is filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern Division of Pennsylvania. The state of Wisconsin is the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit.
The Underlying Alleged Scheme
The attorneys general, in an amended complaint filed in the lawsuit, contend that the two drug companies conspired to block the manufacture of generic derivations of the product, which would be far less expensive. The collusion has resulted in the medication being artificially inflated.
The companies are said to specifically have switched Suboxone from a tablet to a melt-in-the-mouth film. They are said to have undertaken this scheme to prevent other companies from making generic versions of the product. The desire of these companies was to extend the exclusive seven-year protection they possessed with a new medication.
Impermissible Product Hopping
Suboxone initially was introduced onto the market in tablet form. According to the anti-trust lawsuit, the companies later developed the film version of the product that melts in a patient’s mouth. The company’s utilized pricing and marketing techniques to move patient’s from the tablet version to the film derivation.
Eventually, a majority of prescriptions were written for the film derivation of the medication. The companies then completely removed the tablet version from the market in the United States all together.
The attorneys general argue that this scheme represents impermissible product hopping. Product hopping occurs when an inconsequential change is made to a product with the objective of extending the term of a patent protection. The attorneys general maintain that there is no real benefit to be derived from the alteration of the product from a tablet to a film. Indeed, the tablet version of Suboxone is available in countries around world.
Generic Version of Suboxone
A generic version of Suboxone likely would have become available in 2009, had the scheme of developing the film version not occurred. Sales of Suboxone since that time have topped $1 billion annually. The attorneys general argue this amount of sales by these two companies would have been significantly lower since 2009 if generic alternatives were available on the market.
Once generic medications become available on the market, doctors tend to prescribe them frequently in place of the so-called brand name version. The main reason for prescribing generic alternatives is the fact that they generally are cheaper than brand name alternatives. In addition, once a generic version of a drug hits the market, the makers of the brand name version typically must adjust the prices of their own product downward to remain competitive with the generic alternative.
Judicial Relief Requested
The multi-state lawsuit requests that the court to stop these two companies from engaging in illegal anti-competitive practices. The complaint also asks the court to order appropriate financial relief to those consumers who have purchased Suboxone at an artificially enhanced price since 2009. The states are also requesting financial compensation as well.
Learn more about Drug Lawsuits.