ABINGDON, VIRGINIA – Shaun Thaxter, the former chief executive officer of Indivior PLC, was sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Abingdon to 6 months in federal prison. He was also ordered to pay a fine of $100,000 and forfeit $500,000. Thaxter pleaded guilty to a one-count misdemeanor information on June 30, 2020 for his role in causing the introduction into interstate commerce of misbranded shipments of the opioid drug Suboxone Film, a violation of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. Acting United States Attorney Daniel P. Bubar announced the sentence today.
Thaxter served as Indivior’s top executive from 2009 until shortly before his guilty plea. This includes the time period prior to December 2014 when Indivior was known as Reckitt Benckiser Pharmaceuticals. When Indivior was known as Reckitt Benckiser Pharmaceuticals, it was a subsidiary of British conglomerate Reckitt Benckiser Group (RB Group). RB Group paid $1.4 billion in 2019 to resolve its liability to the United States related to the marketing of Suboxone.
On July 24, 2020, an Indivior subsidiary called Indivior Solutions pleaded guilty to a one-count felony information for false statements related to health care 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. On August 26, 2020, Indivior’s former medical director, Timothy Baxter, pleaded guilty to a one-count misdemeanor information for a violation of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act related to the marketing of Suboxone. Indivior Solutions and Baxter have not yet been sentenced.
Suboxone Film is a drug product approved for use by recovering opioid addicts to avoid or reduce withdrawal symptoms while they undergo treatment. Suboxone’s active ingredient, buprenorphine, is a powerful and addictive opioid. Thaxter was charged in connection with Indivior’s misrepresentations regarding the safety of Suboxone Film.
“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,” Acting United States Attorney Bubar said today. “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. As the Court recognized today, this sentence should serve as a deterrence to other pharmaceutical executives. Today’s sentencing is also the product of years of work and could not have happened without the close federal and state law enforcement partnerships, for which we are grateful.”
“The U.S. Postal Service spends billions of dollars per year in workers compensation and health care-related costs, most of which are legitimate,” said Kenneth Cleevely, Special Agent in Charge of the Eastern Field Office for the U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General. “However, when medical providers or companies choose to flout the rules and profit illegally, special agents with the USPS OIG will work with our law enforcement partners to hold them responsible. To report fraud or other criminal activity involving the Postal Service, contact USPS OIG special agents at www.uspsoig.gov or 888-USPS-OIG.”
The criminal cases against Thaxter, Indivior, and Baxter are being prosecuted by attorneys from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Virginia and the Department of Justice’s Civil Division, including Albert P. Mayer, Randy Ramseyer, Kristin L. Gray, Joseph S. Hall, Janine M. Myatt, Garth W. Huston, Carol Wallack, Charles J. Biro, and Matthew J. Lash. The criminal investigation of Thaxter was handled by the Virginia Medicaid Fraud Control Unit; FDA’s Office of Criminal Investigations; United States Postal Service - Office of Inspector General; and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services - Office of Inspector General.