Former Indivior CEO Heading to Prison Over Role in Opioid Crisis

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Shaun Thaxter, the former chief executive officer of U.K.-based Indivior Plc, was sentenced in federal court Thursday, four months after pleading guilty to one misdemeanor count of sharing false information about the addictive properties of Suboxone Film, an opioid-based product.

Thaxter, who stepped down from his role as CEO of Indivior earlier this year, was sentenced to six months in prison for his role. Thaxter’s sentencing marks the second time the U.S. Department of Justice has sent the CEO of an opioid maker to prison. In June, Insys Therapeutics founder John Kapoor was sentenced to more than five years in federal prison for the role his company played in the opioid epidemic.

According to the Department of Justice, Indivior attempted to convince prescribers that there was less chance of abuse with Suboxone Film than the pill formulation. The company attempted to have prescribers switch to its sublingual formulation, for which it had patent protection. Suboxone and its active ingredient, buprenorphine, are powerful and addictive opioids.  Thaxter was charged in connection with Indivior’s misrepresentations to a state Medicaid program regarding the safety of Suboxone Film. 

In June, Thaxter pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of violating the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act by causing the distribution of misbranded Suboxone Film in interstate commerce. He agreed to pay a $600,000 fine.

In July, Reckitt Bensicker Group, the parent company of Indivior, agreed to pay $1.4 billion to settle charges over the sales and marketing of Suboxone Film. The DOJ said Indivior made billions of dollars by “deceiving health care providers and health care benefit programs into believing that Suboxone Film was safer, less divertible and less abusable than other opioid-addiction treatment drugs.” Indivior, the charges allege, was able to encourage prescribers to prescribe the treatment “at high rates and in a clinically unwarranted manner.”

In a brief announcement this morning, Indivior said the plea agreement between the U.S. government and Thaxter is “in his personal capacity and not on behalf of Indivior.” The company said the July agreement between Reckitt Bensicker and the government remains unchanged, however, it is subject to approval by a federal judge at a hearing currently scheduled for Nov. 12.

“As previously noted, the incident to which the agreement relates occurred well in the past and does not reflect the values Indivior has strived to demonstrate during its long history of fighting the opioid crisis,” the company said.

Thaxter’s sentencing comes days after another opioid manufacturer agreed to pay stiff penalties for its role in the ongoing opioid crisis in the United States. This week, Purdue Pharma agreed to pay an $8 billion settlement with the U.S. government and pled guilty to three counts of criminal activity regarding the marketing of its opioid pain reliever, OxyContin. The Connecticut-based company will plead guilty to violating federal anti-kickback laws, including providing monetary incentives for doctors to write more opioid prescriptions and using electronic health record data to increase the rate of prescriptions for pain medication.

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