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FTC sends $59 million in refunds to victims of opioid treatment scheme

The agency accused a company of using unfair and deceptive methods to thwart competition

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The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has mailed millions in refunds to consumers who fell victim to a scheme carried out by Reckitt Benckiser Group and Indivior, Inc.

In a statement, the FTC said the “Suboxone Film scheme” sought to snuff out lower-priced generic competition with the branded drug Suboxone -- a prescription medication used to minimize withdrawal symptoms in patients recovering from opioid addiction. In doing so, the FTC says the company “put Americans’ health and safety at risk.” 

The agency alleged that Reckitt Benckiser and Indivior employed deceptive tactics and sought to deny consumers a lower-cost generic alternative in order to “maintain their lucrative monopoly on the branded drug.”  

The FTC stressed that it “does not tolerate the kind of deceptive practices that make it harder or more expensive to get prescription medication” -- especially in light of the ongoing opioid crisis.

“Today the check is in the mail for over 50,000 people suffering from opioid addiction – a pandemic in its own right still ravaging our communities – who were misled by these parties. While we trust the settlement has sent a strong warning to copycat companies, the FTC remains diligent in its work to promote a safe and competitive marketplace,” said FTC Acting Chairwoman Rebecca Slaughter. 

Refunds are in the mail

In its complaint, the FTC said that RB Group, through its subsidiary Indivior, developed a dissolvable oral film version of Suboxone and worked to shift prescriptions to the film version in a deceptive way.

In an attempt to get doctors and patients to switch to Suboxone Film, Reckitt and Indivior allegedly employed a “product hopping” scheme in which they said the film version of Suboxone was safer than Suboxone tablets because children are less likely to be accidentally exposed to the film product. 

“Suboxone Film contains the same active ingredients and is clinically interchangeable with Suboxone Tablets,” the complaint said. “Any differences between the two formulations are clinically insignificant.” 

A total of $59 million is being refunded to 51,875 consumers. The average payment amount is $1,139. Some victims will receive checks and others will receive prepaid debit cards. 

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