DENVER – Colorado’s attorney general and 35 others are suing the companies that manufacture Suboxone over allegations the companies created a monopoly on the drug by blocking similar generic products and artificially raising the drug’s price.
The antitrust lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for Eastern Pennsylvania, accuses Reckitt Benckiser Pharmaceuticals (now Indivior) and MonoSol Rx of conspiring to change the form in which Suboxone was manufactured “to prevent or delay generic alternatives and maintain monopoly profits,” according to Colorado District Attorney General Cynthia Coffman’s office.
Suboxone is a prescription drug used to treat opioid addiction and is used by thousands in Colorado working to recover.
“Colorado is experiencing a public health crisis involving opioid addictions and overdoses, and we cannot stand by and allow pharmaceutical companies to manipulate the market for a drug that breaks the addiction cycle,” Coffman said in a statement.
The lawsuit alleges Reckitt Benckiser had exclusivity protection to Suboxone for seven years after it first introduced the drug in 2002.
But before the protections expired in 2009, Reckitt and MonoSol changed Suboxone from a tablet to a dissolvable film strip and changed the market so doctors would primarily prescribe the newer version, causing any generic tablet forms to become obsolete, according to the AG’s Office.
Reckitt then removed the tablet from the U.S. market altogether, according to the suit.
The 36 attorneys general who signed on to the suit say the scheme amounted to illegal “product hopping,” in which companies patent certain drugs to stop generic competitors from entering the market.
The lawsuit alleges that Reckitt continued to sell the tablet form of Suboxone elsewhere after it was removed from the United States, and that the company told the FDA there were safety concerns about the tablet, thus further delaying generic versions of the drug.
The attorneys general say the high prices paid by consumers amounted to a monopoly by the companies. Suboxone sales have amounted to more than $1 billion since 2009.
The companies are accused in the suit of violating state laws and the Sherman Anti-Trust Act, which outlaws monopolies. The attorneys general are asking the court to restore competition for Suboxone and for “appropriate relief.”
The attorneys general for the following states have joined the lawsuit, in addition to Coffman: Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, California, District of Columbia, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin.