A UK drugmaker's stock crashed 80% after it was indicted for a 'truly shameful' opioid-addiction scheme

  • Indivior’s shares plunged 80% after a US federal grand jury indicted the UK drugmaker for misleading doctors and public-health officials about the benefits of Suboxone Film, its blockbuster opioid-addiction treatment.
  • The company earns most of its revenue in the US, where the government is working to combat an opioid crisis that contributed to nearly 50,000 overdose deaths in 2017.
  • Indivior plans to “vigorously contest” the charges and considers them to be “wholly unsupported by either the facts or the law.”
  • Its shares have now lost 95% of their value since US regulators approved generic versions of Suboxone last summer.

Shares of Indivior plummeted 80% in Wednesday morning after the US Justice Department accused the British drugmaker of making billions of dollars by lying about the benefits of a blockbuster drug-addiction treatment, leading thousands of opioid-addicted patients to use the drug.

A US federal grand jury indicted Indivior for misleading doctors and public health officials about its Suboxone Film opioid-addiction treatment, which the drugmaker claimed was safer and less prone to being abused or sold on the streets than rival drugs.

“Our indictment alleges a wide-ranging and truly shameful scheme to put profits over the health and well-being of patients trying to manage substance use disorder and opioid dependence,” said Attorney General Mark Herring in a press release.

“It’s incredibly frustrating that while we have been working to remove the stigma around medication-assisted treatment and make it more widely available, Indivior was allegedly conspiring to exploit patients, taxpayers, and the expansion of [medication-assisted treatment].”

Indivior has benefited from the US government’s efforts to address the opioid crisis, having earned close to 80% of its revenue in the US last year. More than 2 million Americans depend on or abuse prescription pain pills and street drugs, and nearly 50,000 died from an overdose involving an opioid in 2017, according to CNN.

Prosecutors are seeking at least $US3 billion in fines if Indivior is convicted on one or more of the felony offenses, according to Reuters. However, Jefferies thinks a settlement could be possible, and prosecutors “would unlikely wish to be the cause for [Indivior] to cease operations given its major role in treating the opioid crisis in the US.”

Indivior plans to “vigorously contest” the charges and considers them to be “wholly unsupported by either the facts or the law,” according to a company press release. “Key allegations made by the Justice Department are contradicted by the government’s own scientific agencies, they are almost exclusively based on years-old events from before Indivior became an independent company in 2014, and they are wrong,” it added.

The company’s shares have tumbled since US regulators approved generic versions of Suboxone last summer, eating into its market share. They’re now down 95% in the past year, slashing Indivior’s market value to below £800 million.

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