Indivior CEO gets 6 months in prison for Suboxone scheme

Shaun Thaxter, the former CEO of Indivior, was sentenced Oct. 22 to six months in federal prison for his role in a scheme to mislead payers, physicians and patients about the safety of its opioid addiction treatment drug, Suboxone. 

Mr. Thaxter also was ordered to pay a fine of $100,000 and forfeit $500,000. He pleaded guilty to a one-count misdemeanor on June 30 for his role in the scheme. He served as CEO of Indivior from 2009 to shortly before his guilty plea. 

Suboxone is designed to treat opioid addiction by reducing withdrawal symptoms, but it contains buprenorphine, a powerful and addictive opioid. Mr. Thaxter and others at Indivior mislead payers, physicians and patients about the safety of the drug, the U.S. Justice Department charged. 

Prosecutors said Mr. Thaxter asked his employees to devise a strategy to win preferred status for Suboxone in Massachusetts' Medicaid program, MassHealth. To do so, Indivior employees shared false and misleading safety information to MassHealth officials about Suboxone's risks for accidental pediatric exposure, prosecutors said. Two months after receiving the false information, MassHealth said it would provide access to Suboxone for Medicaid patients with children under age 6, according to the Justice Department. 

"Misrepresentations made about the drug, while Thaxter ran the company, misled MassHealth about the potential risk of accidental opioid exposure. It is inexcusable to willfully disregard requirements that treatment medications be prescribed carefully in order to protect patient health and safety," said Elton Malone, assistant inspector general for investigations with HHS.

In July, an Indivior subsidiary pleaded guilty to a felony for false statements related to healthcare matters, and together with Indivior, agreed to pay an additional $600 million to resolve liability to the United States related to the marketing of Suboxone.

In August, Indivior's former medical director, Timothy Baxter, also pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor for a violation of the federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act related to the marketing of Suboxone.

Suboxone generated nearly all of Indivior's revenue, according to the Justice Department. 

"While Thaxter served for years as Indivior’s chief executive, he was in a position to ensure that doctors, patients and insurers were dealt with honestly. Instead, Thaxter failed to prevent efforts to build profits through misleading safety claims, which led to millions of dollars in ill-gotten gains for Indivior," said acting U.S. Attorney Daniel Bubar.

Read the Justice Department's full news release here.

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