Depomed joins ranks of scandal-plagued pharmas rehabbing their reputations with a name change

Depomed became Assertio Therapeutics on Wednesday. (Jon Tyson on Unsplash)

There’s no shortage of drugmakers whose reputations have been hurt by scandal. But more and more companies are landing on the same solution for restoring their good name: Change it.

On Wednesday, Depomed became the latest to join the name-changing crowd with a rebranding as Assertio Therapeutics. “The name Depomed no longer accurately reflects the business we’re in today or the future direction in which we’re headed,” CEO Arthur Higgins said in a statement.

Translation: Depomed no longer wants anything to do with the opioid market, as it made clear with its December decision to dump its Nucynta franchise. It likely doesn’t much want the public to remember its opioid phase, either, considering the Senate probe last year that called the company’s marketing practices into question.

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With the move, Depomed takes a page from the playbook of Valeant Pharmaceuticals, which recently swapped out its moniker to become Bausch Health. It borrowed the name from Bausch & Lomb, a leading eye-care brand that Valeant bought in 2013—and one that remained untainted even as federal prosecutors hit a former Valeant exec with multimillion-dollar fraud and kickback charges. Not to mention the rest of Valeant's missteps, investigations, lawsuits and the like.

RELATED: Senate probe keeps heat on J&J, Mylan, Depomed and others for their opioid marketing

Valeant wasn’t the first drugmaker to try to erase history with a title swap, though. KV Pharmaceuticals, for one, did it in 2014 with its shift to Lumara, a title without the pricing-scandal and bankruptcy baggage that had plagued KV in previous years.

RELATED: Meet the new Valeant: Drugmaker drops tainted name to become Bausch Health in July rebrand

That’s not to say every pharma company that picks a new name is working to cover up bad behavior. Sometimes, companies just want to nix a link to someone else’s. Just look at Ionis Pharmaceuticals, formerly known as Isis, which changed its name to avoid any potential association with the terrorist organization.