Posted on Jul 11, 2019, 8 p.m.
The British company, Reckitt Benckiser, has agreed to pay $1.4 billion to resolve all American government investigations and claims in what it set to be the biggest drug industry settlement to date emerging from the nation’s opioid epidemic.
In a statement the company has denied any wrongdoing but said the settlement deal "avoids the costs, uncertainty and distraction associated with continued investigations, litigation and the potential for an indictment."
Their former division Indivior makes Suboxone Film which an opioid addiction drug that dissolves under the tongue. The Justice Department charged Indivior with felony fraud and conspiracy in April as Federal prosecutors claim that starting in 2010 the company falsely marketed this film as being safer and less prone to abuse than cheaper table forms, and illegally earned billions of dollars from healthcare providers and insurers.
Indivior denies all allegations, but could forfeit at least $3 billion in penalties if found guilty. "Drug manufacturers marketing products to help opioid addicts are expected to do so honestly and responsibly," noted Assistant Attorney General Jody Hunt.
Most of the settlement will go to various federal agencies, with $200 million being divided between states that sign on to the settlement deal with the money going towards reimbursing their Medicaid budgets.
This payout is indeed noteworthy, and this year has been a year of reckoning across the pharma industry with Purdue Phama, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, and Insys Therapeutics all agreeing to pay state and federal agencies a combined total of over a half a billion dollars to settle opioid related claims.
7 former and current Insys executives pleaded guilty or were convicted of federal racketeering conspiracy charges linked to marketing of opioids; later the company declared bankruptcy and recently Purdue Phama has talked openly of filing Chapter 11.
Johnson & Johnson is in court where the Oklahoma state’s attorney general is demanding $17 billion in compensation which is expected to wrap up shortly.
Another lawsuit will begin in October involving Big Pharma with more than 1,200 local governments around the USA that have filed lawsuits which have been consolidated to be heard by a federal court in Ohio.
By making their huge settlement Reckitt Benckiser is hoping to avoid further legal chaos, however it may not be in the clear as there are fears of companies making big payouts still facing the ever present lingering liability. Not to mention the company is still facing charges from dozens of state attorney generals, some of which may take part in this federal settlement but others may keep fighting in court to push for separate opioid settlements.
According to the CDC more than 200,000 Americans died from prescription opioid overdoses from 1999-2017. Opioid advocates hope much of the settlement money will go to help communities and individuals that are struggling with high rates of addiction and overdose deaths.
Materials provided by:
Note: Content may be edited for style and length.
This article is not intended to provide medical diagnosis, advice, treatment, or endorsement.