The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) on Monday announced that it has sent more than 50,000 payments totaling almost $60 million to consumers targeted by an alleged anticompetitive scheme orchestrated by Reckitt Benckiser Group and Indivior Inc. that hiked prices of Suboxone, a medication used to treat opioid withdrawal symptoms.
The FTC originally filed suit against Reckitt and Indivior in 2019, alleging that the affiliated companies employed a “product hopping” scheme. The defendants purportedly pulled this off through claiming that a dissolvable oral film version of Suboxone — a pricier patent-protected product — was safer than the tablet version because children would be less likely to get ahold of and be harmed by the film product. This operationally denied consumers a more affordable generic product, allowing the defendants to maintain a monopoly, the FTC claimed.
Reckitt and Indivior both settled the civil allegations for $50 million and $10 million, respectively. The settlement stipulated that the defendants must disgorge the funds and cease the allegedly anticompetitive conduct. The companies also faced criminal charges of health care fraud, mail fraud, and wire fraud in the Western District of Virginia at the same time, both eventually settling with the Department of Justice.
“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,” acting Chairwoman Rebecca Slaughter said in the release. “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.”
According to the news release, the average payment being sent is $1,139, with some consumers receiving checks and some receiving prepaid debit cards.