It has been a big week health care fraud news.
On Tuesday, a federal grand jury sitting in Virginia indicted Indivior, Inc. and Indivior PLC for engaging in a scheme to increase prescriptions of Suboxone Film, an opioid drug used in the treatment of opioid addiction.
According to the Indictment, Indivior ran an internet and telephone program, “Here to Help”, for patients addicted to opioids. Here to Help was touted as a resource for opioid addicted patients. When patients called the Here to Help hotline, the patients were referred to doctors it knew were prescribing its painkiller and other opioids “to more patients than allowed by federal law, at high doses, and in suspect circumstances.” The Indictment claims that Indivior knew the doctors in the Here to Help referral system were issuing prescriptions in a careless and clinically unwarranted manner. According to the government, Indivior executives and employees had firsthand reports and statistical information that the doctors in the referral network were careless.
Suboxone Film was developed around 2007 as a patent-protected alternative to the tablet form of Suboxone. The government alleges that Indivior aggressively marketed Suboxone Film without an established basis, as having a “lower risk of child exposure” and “a less divertible/abusable formulation” than other opioid-addiction treatment drugs. Indivior made these claims in marketing materials and representations to physicians, pharmacists, and health care benefit programs throughout the country.
The government claims that Indivior’s scheme was highly successful because it was able to convert thousands of opioid-addicted patents over to Suboxone Film. Indivior continued to hold onto a high portion of the opioid-addiction treatment market until Suboxone Film became subject to generic competition.
This case confirms that the government will continue to target the opioid industry. It will also be interesting to see whether any executives are targeted.