Thirty-five states sue pharmaceutical company for artificially inflating price of opioid overdose drug

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The attorneys general of 35 states and Washington, D.C., including California, New York, Illinois, Florida, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania, have joined a lawsuit from Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel against the British pharmaceutical company Reckitt Benckiser. The complaint accuses the drugmaker of running "an unlawful, multi-pronged scheme” to artificially inflate the price of Suboxone, an opioid drug used to help those addicted to heavier opioids wean themselves off (with mixed results).

In 2002, according to the Guardian, Reckitt was granted an exclusive license by the FDA to manufacture Suboxone. When that expired in 2009, the lawsuit alleges, Reckitt and another drug company conspired to create a different version of the drug, with the main difference being that it dissolves under the tongue. The patent for that drug expires in 2022.


The thin strip version of Suboxone allowed the opioid to enter prisons more easily, the New York Times reported in 2013, and oftentimes is abused just like the drugs it is meant to prevent people from abusing. Still, it has legitimate medical uses for addiction and pain relief, and the lawsuit alleges Reckitt's actions have unfairly jacked up the prices for patients.

Sam Stecklow is the Weekend Editor for Fusion.

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