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W.Va. to get almost $12M via Medicaid settlement

CHARLESTON — A $700 million multi-state settlement to resolve allegations that the maker of Suboxone improperly marketed and promoted the drug in its distribution was announced on Thursday by the West Virginia Attorney General’s Office.

It is the first settlement since the Attorney General’s Office assumed control of the state’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit.

Reckitt Benckiser Group will provide West Virginia more than $11.98 million. The state will keep more than $2.93 million, while the balance will reimburse federal Medicaid programs, which is consistent with previous Medicaid settlements, Attorney General Patrick Morrisey said.

“Misrepresenting the characteristics of any drug can have dangerous consequences for public health,” Attorney Morrisey said. “Such conduct also steals precious resources from Medicaid and jeopardizes the program for those who need it most. We cannot tolerate such behavior and look forward to rooting out more fraud in the months ahead.”

The Reckitt Benckiser Group distributed Suboxone as a drug product approved for recovering opioid addicts to avoid or reduce withdrawal symptoms while they undergo treatment. Suboxone and its active ingredient, buprenorphine, are powerful and addictive opioids.

The Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit alleged Reckitt knowingly promoted the sale and use of Suboxone to prescribers who prescribed the drug without a legitimate medical purpose.

It also alleged Reckitt promoted sale or use of Suboxone based on deceptive claims that Suboxone film carried less risk for abuse than other buprenorphine products and took steps to fraudulently delay generic competitors to improperly control pricing of the drug, including pricing to federal health care programs.

Nationally, more than $400 million of Reckitt’s $700 million payout will go to the Medicaid programs. The West Virginia Bureau of Medicaid Services will receive approximately $1.47 million of the state’s share.

Transfer of the state’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit occurred Oct. 1.

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