A federal grand jury in Abingdon indicted Indivior Inc., a British drug manufacturing company, on charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, mail fraud and health care fraud, based on the company allegedly downplaying the addictiveness of its Suboxone film strips.

The drug is commonly prescribed in the region to treat patients for opioid addiction.

According to the indictment, Indivior obtained revenue from the Suboxone film prescriptions by deceiving health care providers and health care benefit programs into believing they are safer, less divertible and less abusable than other opioid-addiction treatment drugs, including the tablet form of Suboxone.

The company promoted the film as a safer alternative to the tablet form, “even though the company lacked any scientific evidence to support those claims,” the indictment states. The company made the claims in marketing materials and through representations to physicians, pharmacists and health care benefit programs throughout the country, the indictment adds.

“The Department of Justice intends to hold accountable those who are in position to know the harm opioid abuse inflicts but instead choose to profit illegally from the pain of others,” Principal Deputy Associated Attorney General Jesse Panuccio with the Department of Justice said. “Manufacturers, distributors, pharmacies and doctors should all be on notice that they must follow the law and act responsibly.”

The scheme, the indictment claims, converted thousands of patients over to Suboxone film and caused state Medicaid programs to expand and maintain coverage at substantial costs to the government.

"We are extremely disappointed in this action by the Justice Department, which is wholly unsupported by either the facts or the law,” the company, which is currently based in the U.K., said last Tuesday.

Indivior said key allegations made by the Department of Justice are contradicted by the government’s own scientific agencies, based on years-old events from before Indivior became an independent company in 2014, and “they are wrong.”

Recently, Indivior lost in court when it tried to stop companies from producing and selling generic Suboxone film.

Last year, then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions created the Prescription Interdiction & Litigation Task Force to fight the prescription drug crisis that has plagued the country. The task force was expected to deploy and coordinate all available criminal and civil law enforcement tools to reverse the tide of opioid overdoses in the country, with a particular focus on manufacturers and distributors.

The prosecution against Indivior is part of the task force’s efforts, according to public affairs specialist Brian McGinn with the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

The Abingdon division has an established history of expertise in pharmaceutical prosecutions, McGinn said Wednesday. Federal prosecutors in the district and nationally have been successful in taking civil and criminal cases to court in Abingdon.

Abuse and diversion of Suboxone strips have been reported throughout the region, according to authorities. Deputy Darrell Dickenson, a spokesman with the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, said deputies deal with Suboxone tablets and Suboxone film on a weekly basis.

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