According to a lawsuit brought by the Attorneys General of 36 states across the country, three pharmaceutical companies – Reckitt Benkiser, Indivior, and MonoSol RX – have been engaging in a conspiracy to change the form of Suboxone from a tablet to a type of film that is dissolved by saliva. The purpose of this is to prevent generic versions from entering the market, thus maintaining a monopoly on a medication that helps addicts control their cravings.
The lawsuit claims that the companies are in violation of state and federal anti-trust regulation. According to the complaint, patients have been forced to pay inflated prices for Suboxone for the past 7 years when generic versions of the medication might have been available to help opioid addicts.
In 2009, Reckitt Benkiser’s patent on Suboxone expired. Up to that point, the U.K. based drug maker controlled 85% of the market. That stake was hundreds of millions in profits if a less expensive generic was produced. The drug manufacturer instead engaged in what is called “product hopping”. In this case, Reckitt Benkiser and Indivior collaborated with MonoSol RX to change the form of the medication from tablets to a film that dissolves in the patient’s mouth. This version came out in 2010 and is scheduled to remain patent until 2023. The film version of the medication offers no improvement over the pill version, which Reckitt Benkiser continued to sell in other countries of the world while taking it off pharmacy shelves in the United States.