Reckitt Benckiser to stop selling suboxone heroin tablets in US

Heroin substitute suboxone pulled after study shows pills are more likely to be accidentally taken by children

Reckitt Benckiser is to voluntarily stop selling its lucrative heroin replacement tablets in the US after receiving a study it said found that the pills were more likely to be accidentally taken by young children than alternative treatments.

The group is best known for its household cleaning brands such as Dettol, Finish, and Air Wick, but it makes more than 20% of its operating profit from a lucrative legacy pharmaceuticals business which sells the heroin replacement drug suboxone under licence from the US Food and Drug Administration.

The company said it would encourage American doctors to migrate recovering heroin addicts on to another, newer Reckitt product, which delivers the same suboxone drug via an under-the-tongue film. Reckitt said the alternative product was "child resistant", in part because of its packaging, which allows access one dose at a time. Suboxone tablets are sold in a bottle which contains 30 pills.

The FDA has not ordered Reckitt to stop supplying tablets but the company said it felt compelled to act after seeing analysis from the US Poison Control Centres this month which showed that rates of "accidental unsupervised paediatric exposure" to suboxone was about eight times higher with tablets than with film.

A spokesman for the company said the decision had nothing to do with the fact that Reckitt's film product was patent-protected while the group's suboxone tablets business is shortly expected to face competition from cheap, copycat generic drug suppliers.

Reckitt investors have been closely watching suboxone sales in recent years after the drug lost its exclusive marketing rights in October 2009. The company had warned investors to expect generic competitor pills to be available at some stage. In its annual report Reckitt said: "Up to 80% of the revenue and profit from the suboxone tablet business in the US might be lost in the year following the launch of generic competitors, with the possibility of further erosion thereafter."


Simon Bowers

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Reckitt Benckiser faces inquiry over move to block heroin substitutes
Company's exclusive right to market cheaper Suboxone tablets in the US has expired and it expects a substantial hit to profits

Simon Bowers

25, Feb, 2013 @8:09 PM

Article image
Reckitt Benckiser set to float US arm RB Pharmaceuticals

Chief executive Rakesh Kapoor has been keen to focus the company on its 19 'powerbrands' such as Durex condoms and Finish dishwasher tablets

Jennifer Rankin

28, Jul, 2014 @7:37 AM

Article image
Reckitt Benckiser's expert questions moves to withdraw suboxone tablets
Dr Rick Dart – recruited by Reckitt – believes blister packs of pills to treat heroin addiction would diminish danger to children

Simon Bowers

01, Oct, 2012 @6:08 PM

Article image
Reckitt Benckiser to pay $1.4bn fine over opioid treatment sales
Nurofen maker reaches deal with US over alleged fraudulent marketing of Suboxone

Sean Farrell

11, Jul, 2019 @8:36 AM

Article image
Demerger only viable option for Reckitt Benckiser and RB Pharmaceuticals
Suboxone nice to own when yielding easy profits but reinventing drug arm probably best undertaken by standalone management

Nils Pratley

28, Jul, 2014 @3:44 PM

Article image
Reckitt Benckiser fined £10.2m by OFT
Drug company stopped NHS doctors prescribing cheaper alternatives to its heartburn medicine Gaviscon

Julia Kollewe

15, Oct, 2010 @10:44 AM

Heroin treatment boosts Reckitt profits
Tablet produced by firm's pharmaceuticals division has become preferred treatment for addicts in US

Simon Bowers

20, Apr, 2011 @5:30 PM

Article image
Reckitt Benckiser buys Schiff Nutrition
Reckitt outbid German rival Bayer, paying $1.4bn for US company as drug companies focus more on additional markets

Nadine Schimroszik

22, Nov, 2012 @4:35 PM

Article image
Reckitt Benckiser needs to wean itself off a dud pay model | Nils Pratley
When a scheme for calculating exec pay can’t stand the lightest brush with common sense, it’s time for change

Nils Pratley

28, Mar, 2018 @6:44 PM

Article image
Reckitt Benckiser upbeat despite emerging markets sales slowdown

Maker of brands including Dettol and Nurofen expects revenues to rise as firm increases sales of its 19 'powerbrands'

Sean Farrell

12, Feb, 2014 @1:44 PM