Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Neronha announced on Monday that the state would receive $5.4 million as its share of a $700 million settlement reached last week between consumer goods company Reckitt Benckiser and a coalition representing all 50 states over the company’s marketing of the opioid addiction treatment Suboxone. News of the settlement comes after a $1.4 billion deal between Reckitt Benckiser and the federal government to settle a similar lawsuit was announced in July.
Under the terms of the settlement, Rhode Island will receive a total of $5.4 million in settlement funds. Of that amount, $2.9 million will be returned to the State’s Medicaid administrator, the Executive Office of Health and Human Services, and the remaining $2.4 million will be returned to the federal government.
Reckitt Benckiser, a U.K.-based consumer goods corporation, had been sued by the federal government and several states for its role in the aggressive marketing practices of its former pharmaceutical division, which was spun off by the company as Indivior in 2014. Indivior also faces its own civil litigation and was indicted on criminal charges in April.
Suit Alleged Over-Prescribing of Opioids
The civil settlement includes actions by Reckitt Benckiser and its pharmaceutical division between 2010 and 2014, including promoting the prescribing of Suboxone by physicians for patients who were not receiving counseling or other support services.
The plaintiffs also alleged that the company had promoted sales of its Suboxone sublingual film based on false and misleading information and that Reckitt Benckiser had submitted a petition to the FDA in 2012 that fraudulently claimed the firm had discontinued manufacturing and selling its Suboxone sublingual tablet “due to safety concerns.”
The civil settlement resolves the claims against Reckitt Benckiser brought in six qui tam lawsuits pending in federal courts in the Western District of Virginia and the District of New Jersey. New York Attorney General Letitia James said in a press release last week that the company had failed to live up to its responsibilities.
“Pharmaceutical companies have a basic duty to ensure that they are properly disclosing and marketing powerful drugs,” said James. “Reckitt misled the public about the real impacts of Suboxone and encouraged physicians to wrongly prescribe it, while cheating New York out of tens of millions of dollars in the process. No company is above the law and we will continue to take on anyone who takes advantage of the opioid crisis to increase their bottom line.”
New York’s Medicaid program will receive nearly $72 million and almost $40 million will be returned to the federal government under terms of the settlement agreement.
Company Denies Wrongdoing
In a statement, Reckitt Benckiser denied any wrongdoing in connection with the case.
“While RB has acted lawfully at all times and expressly denies all allegations that it engaged in any wrongful conduct, after careful consideration, the Board of RB determined that the agreement is in the best interests of the company and its shareholders,” the company said.
But Connecticut Attorney General William Tong said that the company knew what it was doing.
“Reckitt Benckiser knowingly promoted the sale of Suboxone for unsafe, ineffective and unnecessary purposes, reaping undue profits from states and the federal government while imperiling the lives of countless individuals,” said Tong. “This agreement will return $18.8 million back to Connecticut’s Medicaid program, as well as DSS’ state-funded programs. This settlement sends a strong message that states across the nation are united in taking aggressive action against those who fraudulently and callously contributed to the opioid epidemic.”
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