Reckitt Benckiser Plc Hires Key Bureaucrat Amid Suboxone Tumult

Published: Feb 22, 2013

Amid a raging controversy over its strategy for promoting the Suboxone treatment for opioid dependence, Reckitt Benckiser has hired a career government bureaucrat who can help the company better navigate the curious world of opioid treatment programs and federal regulations. In a little-noticed move, Nicholas Reuter joined Reckitt earlier this month as manager of treatment health policy and government affairs, a Reckitt spokesman confirms. Reuter, who spent 37 years with the federal government, was most recently a senior public health analyst with the Substance Abuse & Mental Health Service Administration, or SAMHSA. And his crowning accomplishment was shepherding the rulemaking process for getting buprenorphine – which is sold as Suboxone and other names – into opioid treatment programs, according to Alison Knopf, editor of Alcoholism & Drug Abuse Weekly, which first reported the hiring. The rule, which took effect last month, allows opioid treatment programs to dispense the drug without various take-home restrictions. “He is a godsend to them and a huge loss to the federal government, and to anybody who wants to come up with another, cheaper alternative” to Suboxone, Knopf says. “He knows the regulations by heart, for OTPs and for… laws allowing physicians to get waivers to treat opioid addicts with an opioid. He is an encylopedia.” His arrival may not help Reckitt with all of its myriad issues surrounding Suboxone, but the timing is certainly fortuitous. Apart from combating problems with diversion and abuse, the company is working furiously to promote a newer sublingual, or film version, of its drug, while preventing generic drugmakers from selling low-cost versions of its older tablet, which is being withdrawn from the US market.

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