U.K. Drugmaker Charged -- WSJ

Date : 04/11/2019 @ 8:02AM
Source : Dow Jones News
Stock : Reckitt Benckiser PLC (PK) (RBGLY)
Quote : 15.405  -0.305 (-1.94%) @ 9:30PM
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U.K. Drugmaker Charged -- WSJ

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Prosecutors seek at least $3 billion from Indivior, which has denied the allegations

By Maria Armental 

This article is being republished as part of our daily reproduction of WSJ.com articles that also appeared in the U.S. print edition of The Wall Street Journal (April 11, 2019).

Federal prosecutors charged a U.K. pharmaceutical company with organizing a multibillion-dollar fraud to drive up sales of Suboxone Film, an opioid-addiction treatment.

As part of an indictment filed Tuesday in Virginia, the Justice Department said Indivior PLC set up a telephone and online program intended to connect callers with doctors that Indivior knew were prescribing Suboxone or opioids in a "careless and clinically unwarranted manner."

The criminal charges come as the U.S. government has taken a more aggressive approach to fighting the opioid crisis, with thousands of lawsuits filed against opioid manufacturers and distributors.

In 2017, President Trump declared the opioid crisis a public health emergency and has taken steps to crack down on international and domestic drug-supply chains.

The Justice Department is seeking at least $3 billion and control of other property from Indivior, previously the pharmaceuticals business of Reckitt Benckiser Group PLC. Indivior, which became a stand-alone company in 2014, denied the charges. In a statement, it accused the Justice Department of pursuing "self-serving headlines on a matter of national significance."

The company said it worked with the Justice Department for years as part of its investigation and "made numerous attempts to reach a settlement that went far beyond what we believe the facts of this case support."

"Indivior's top priority has always been the treatment of patients struggling with opioid addiction," the company said. "Indivior does not make pain pills in the U.S. and is not a contributor to the opioid crisis."

The government says that for more than a decade, the company played down the risks of Suboxone Film, a prescription medicine that dissolves in the mouth and contains the active ingredients buprenorphine and naloxone. For example, prosecutors said, promotional statements described the product as being safer with a "lower risk of child exposure" and "less divertable and abusable," meaning it is less likely to be sold illegally, shared or smuggled.

However, the government said company managers discussed that "under no circumstances" could claims be made that the product is safer or better at reducing pediatric exposures among other things. Prosecutors said managers "did not contact patients, physicians, pharmacists, health care benefit programs, or others to correct or retract the promotional statements Indivior salespeople had already made."

Write to Maria Armental at maria.armental@wsj.com


(END) Dow Jones Newswires

April 11, 2019 02:47 ET (06:47 GMT)

Copyright (c) 2019 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.

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