Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 
Oct 25 2019

Suboxone maker to pay Washington nearly $2.2 million as part of multistate Medicaid fraud investigation

OLYMPIA — Attorney General Bob Ferguson today announced that opioid manufacturer and distributor Reckitt Benckiser Group will pay nearly $2.2 million to Washington state as the result of a Medicaid fraud investigation that alleged the pharmaceutical company improperly kept the price of opioid addiction treatment drug Suboxone high by delaying generic versions, resulting in false or fraudulent claims to Washington’s Medicaid program.

The investigation also alleged that the company improperly marketed Suboxone.

Today’s agreement resolves six whistleblower lawsuits in federal courts in Virginia and New Jersey, and involves $700 million in payouts to the federal government and state Medicaid programs. Washington was a party to five of the six lawsuits.

The England-based company is accused of attempting to improperly delay FDA approval of generic versions of the heroin addiction treatment drug — itself a powerful and addictive opioid-based drug — so it could remain in control of the drug’s pricing, allowing the company to extend the timeframe it could keep the price of Suboxone high. The whistleblower lawsuits also accused the company and its subsidiaries of contributing to diversion and abuse of Suboxone by knowingly promoting it for uses that were unsafe, ineffective or not medically necessary, resulting in false or fraudulent claims to Medicaid.

“Opioid addiction is an epidemic in Washington state and around the country,” Ferguson said. “We will continue to hold drug companies accountable for the damage they caused and their willingness to put profits over people.”

Today’s resolution does not impact a separate, multistate antitrust lawsuit over Reckitt’s alleged conduct designed to thwart FDA approval of generic versions of Suboxone, which Ferguson filed along with 35 other attorneys general in 2016. That case is ongoing.

Washington’s share

As part of today’s resolution, Washington recovers a total of $2,163,990.

Washington is required to return $1,073,357 to the federal government for administration of Medicaid in Washington state. Whistleblowers in the False Claims Act cases will be paid $113,478.

Washington’s Medicaid program processed approximately 46,000 Suboxone claims between 2010 and 2014, the timeframe covered by the allegations.

Overall, Reckitt will pay $700 million to resolve various civil fraud allegations impacting Medicaid and other government healthcare programs.

Assistant Attorney General Karl Sloan and Chief Data Analyst Sonja Winkelman handled the case for Washington.

Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Division

The Attorney General's Medicaid Fraud Control Division is responsible for the investigation and prosecution of healthcare provider fraud committed against the state’s Medicaid program as well as abuse and neglect of persons residing in residential facilities.

Report suspected Medicaid fraud at 360-586-8888 or MFCUreferrals@atg.wa.gov.

You can also report provider fraud via the AGO website at www.atg.wa.gov/medicaid-fraud.

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The Office of the Attorney General is the chief legal office for the state of Washington with attorneys and staff in 27 divisions across the state providing legal services to roughly 200 state agencies, boards and commissions. Visit www.atg.wa.gov to learn more.

Contacts:

Brionna Aho, Communications Director, (360) 753-2727; Brionna.aho@atg.wa.gov