Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine and 35 other attorneys general Thursday filed a federal lawsuit alleging that the maker of an opioid treatment drug schemed to inflate prices and block other manufacturers from competing.
The drug in question, Suboxone, is used to treat opioid addiction by curbing a user’s cravings. The suit claims that Suboxone’s manufacturers, Invidior and MonoSol Rx, conspired to artificially extend their patent protection, inflate prices and maintain a monopoly.
“Some people rely on this prescription drug to treat heroin addiction,” DeWine said in a news release. “They shouldn’t be forced to pay higher prices or deprived of options because drug makers circumvent the law to maximize their profits.”
Invidior, then known as Reckitt Benckiser Pharmaceuticals, began selling Suboxone tablets in 2002; the company had a protected patent that prevented competitors from selling generic versions of the same product until 2009.
However, the attorneys general said they believe Reckitt/Invidior created a more expensive, dissolving film version of Suboxone and then discontinued the tablet in the United States to maintain their monopoly. Because the film qualified, in some senses, as a new product, the patent protection continued past its initial expiration date. This practice is known as “product hopping,” according to the news release.
“People deserve the benefits of fair market competition,” DeWine said. “When the product involved is used to treat addiction, the implications are even more significant.”
Also joining the suit are Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, California, Colorado, the 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, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin.