Vermont has reached a nearly $11 million settlement with a pharmaceutical distributor that allegedly wrongly promoted an opioid addiction medication, causing improper expenditures of Medicaid funds.

Attorney General TJ Donovan said the settlement will hold the Suboxone distributor, Reckitt Benckiser Group, accountable for their “deceptive” practices, while also getting Vermont Medicaid and the state’s taxpayers back the money they are owed.

“Reckitt misled doctors and consumers about a critically important tool in our fight against the opioid epidemic, and the State and federal government paid for it,” Donovan said in a statement. 

Through a subsidiary, Reckitt distributed, marketed, and sold Suboxone sublingual tablets and Suboxone sublingual film until 2014. The settlement resolves allegations from 2010 to 2014 that the company wrongly did a number of things, including promoting the sale of the drug to physicians who were prescribing it without counseling, and for uses that were “unsafe, ineffective, and medically unnecessary.”

Suboxone contains buprenorphine and naloxone, and is used to treat narcotic addiction.

Other allegations against the company included its promotion of the drug on claims that it was less subject to diversion and abuse than other buprenorphine products, its fraudulent claims to the FDA that it discontinued selling the drug “due to safety concerns” in 2012, and fraudulent steps it took to delay the entry of generic competition in order to control the drug’s pricing. 

The settlement money will be divided between various government agencies —  $4.3 million will go to the state, $5.46 million will go to the federal government for the recovery of federal funding provided to Vermont Medicaid, and the rest will provide restitution for the state Medicaid system, additional recoveries for the state, and a $900,000 payment to the whistleblower required under the False Claims Act.

Nationally, the company paid out more than $700 million to resolve six lawsuits filed in federal court.

Ellie French is a general assignment reporter and news assistant for VTDigger. She is a recent graduate of Boston University, where she interned for the Boston Business Journal and served as the editor-in-chief...

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