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October 29, 2019

Maine to get $5M in (another) opioid settlement

Maine will receive about $5 million in a multi-state legal settlement related to the marketing of prescription opioid drugs — but the case has nothing to do with the well-publicized suit against Purdue Pharma.

Pharmaceutical distributor Reckitt Benckiser Group will pay a total of $700 million to state Medicaid agencies and other government health care programs in response to allegations the company improperly marketed the drug Suboxone, according to a news release Friday.

Suboxone is used to suppress opioid withdrawal symptoms, but is only legally approved as part of a treatment plan that includes counseling and psychosocial support.

States including Maine claim that Reckitt, a British company, promoted the drug’s use for patients who did not have a treatment plan and for “uses that were unsafe, ineffective, and medically unnecessary and that were often diverted for uses that lacked a legitimate medical purpose.”

Reckitt also made false claims about the drug’s potential for abuse and fraudulently attempted to block the entry of a generic competitor to the product, according to the release. As a result, government health care programs made wrongly informed decisions about paying for the drug.

“The opioid crisis is one of the biggest challenges facing our state, so allegations that a company would improperly market Suboxone outside of a complete treatment plan are concerning,” said Maine Attorney General Aaron M. Frey. “I applaud the work of our Medicaid Fraud Control Unit in assisting with this settlement agreement and recovering significant resources for the state.”

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