Charles Krupa / AP
The British company Reckitt Benckiser agreed to pay $ 1.4 billion to resolve all investigations and claims by the US government in what is the largest pharmaceutical industry agreement to date derived from the nation's deadly opioid epidemic.
In a statement issued on Thursday, Reckitt Benckiser denied the irregularities, but said the settlement agreement "avoids the costs, uncertainty and distraction associated with ongoing investigations, litigation and the possibility of an indictment."
The company's former Indivior division, split in 2014, produces a drug for opioid addiction called Suboxone Film that dissolves under the tongue. In April, the Justice Department accused Indivior of fraud and conspiracy.
Federal prosecutors said that as of 2010, Indivior falsely promoted its movie as safer and less prone to abuse than cheaper tablets, illegally earning billions of dollars in a "national plan" to fool health care providers and insurers, including Medicaid.
Indivior has denied the accusations. Prosecutors say the company should lose at least $ 3 billion in fines if it is found guilty.
In announcing the Reckitt Benckiser agreement, the Department of Justice noted that Suboxone is a medication designed to help people suffering from opioid dependence. "Drug manufacturers who market products to help opiate addicts are expected to do so honestly and responsibly," said Assistant Attorney General Jody Hunt.
Most of the $ 1.4 billion will go to several federal agencies, but $ 200 million will be divided among the states that sign the settlement agreement, and the money will go to reimburse their Medicaid budgets.
While the payment is notable for its size, this has been a year of computation throughout the pharmaceutical industry. Insys Therapeutics, Purdue Pharma and Teva Pharmaceutical Industries agreed to pay state and federal agencies a combined total of more than $ 500 million to settle claims related to opioids.
In May, seven current and former Insys executives pleaded guilty or were convicted on charges of federal extortion conspiracy linked to the commercialization of opioid drugs. That company later declared bankruptcy. Purdue Phama has spoken openly about the presentation of Chapter 11.
Meanwhile, Johnson & Johnson is in court in Oklahoma, with the state attorney general demanding $ 17 billion in compensation. The test is expected to conclude early next week.
Another big trial begins in October with lawsuits filed against Big Pharma by more than 1,200 local governments in the US. UU That consolidated case will be known in a federal court in Ohio.
This is the kind of legal chaos related to opioids that Reckitt Benckiser hopes to avoid, but it may not be completely clear. One of the big fears of the industry is that companies will make large payments but face a persistent responsibility.
Reckitt Benckiser still faces trials from dozens of state attorneys general. Some officials may choose to participate in this federal agreement, but others may continue to fight in the courts, pressing for separate opioid agreements.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that more than 200,000 people died from overdoses of prescription opioids in the United States from 1999 to 2017. Advocates expect that much of the agreement's money will go to help communities and individuals who they struggle with high rates of addictions and deaths from overdoses.