Judge Rules In Favor Of The Validity Of Plaintiff's Claims Against Reckitt Benckiser

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An attempt by Reckitt Benckiser to toss allegations of antitrust behavior was rebuffed by a federal judge, although some lawsuits filed by end payors were cut from the multidistrict litigation.

Saturday, April 18, 2015 - Plaintiffs involved in multidistrict litigation against Reckitt Benckiser Pharmaceuticals Inc. were pleased to learn that the federal judge overseeing the case ruled to affirm his decision which allowed them to pursue claims against the pharmaceutical company. Though a series of claims were tossed, the central allegation of violation of antitrust laws by Reckitt Benckiser were allowed to proceed.

The complaints against Reckitt Benckiser were first centralized to the U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania in June of 2013, and the defendants have been attempting to have the suits thrown out since its consolidation. Reckitt Benckiser‘s latest effort came via an objection by to a portion of a December opinion written by U.S. District Judge Mitchell S. Goldberg that outlined the allegations claiming that the company‘s transition of the drug Suboxone from pill to film form constituted as anticompetitive behavior.

Judge Goldberg did elect to backtrack on some claims included in his opinion brought up by end payors, referencing the absence of these plaintiffs‘ acknowledgment of Reckitt Benckiser‘s market power as an element that was needed to pursue antitrust claims under the Sherman Act. This move eliminated lawsuits from the MDL coming from Suboxone end payors.

Reckitt Benckiser originally attempted to bar plaintiffs from suing the company concerning claims that it tried to subvert the market for generic versions of Suboxone. However, Judge Goldberg elected to hear those arguments in full from direct purchasers despite skimming some of the severity from claims brought by end payors.

The claims center on the film version of Suboxone manufactured by Reckitt Benckiser. Plaintiffs claim that as the exclusivity period for Reckitt Benckiser was coming to a close, the company decided to create the film version of the drug. They then marketed the film as an improved version of the drug, which they hoped would deter patients from relying on the generic tablet form of the drug.

The plaintiffs claim that these actions taken by Reckitt Benckiser are anticompetitive as it extends their hold on Suboxone after its exclusivity period expires and allows them to continue to charge more for the drug as generics would have to wait until they could secure the rights to the film.

Though Judge Goldberg allowed the lawsuits to continue in multidistrict litigation, he did not offer any opinions relating to the plausibility of the claims. The defendants are arguing vehemently that the introduction of the film was not a maneuver to subvert the generics market, but instead simply a way to offer patients an alternative to the tablet form the opiate addiction medication. In addition to Reckitt Benckiser‘s attempt at persuading the judge to reconsider a previous ruling, their attorneys also attempted to cite recent Food and Drug Administration reports that backed up their defense of not participating in anticompetitive behaviors.

The MDL is still pending before the Eastern District Court of Pennsylvania, and the plaintiffs will soon have to prove that the introduction of the film version of Suboxone was a deliberate attempt to undercut the viability of generic drug producers.