Reckitt petitions FDA to force 'child resistant' packaging on Suboxone rivals

Reckitt Benckiser is taking another stab at rivals to its Suboxone Film product. Yesterday, the company first announced that it would stop making Suboxone tablets, because of data showing the pills were more likely to be used accidentally by children. That took care of competition from its own pills, which contain the opioid buprenorphine.

Then, Reckitt announced it had petitioned FDA to require rival drugmakers to package their buprenorphine drugs in child-resistant, individually packaged doses. Conveniently enough, Suboxone FIlm is already individually packaged.

"The child resistant, unit-dosed packaging of Suboxone Film may be one of the key contributing factors to the decrease in exposure rates compared to Suboxone Tablets that are distributed in a multi-dose bottle containing 30 tablets," the company said in a statement.

Reckitt is asking FDA to not only require "child resistant, unit-dosed packaging" but to offer educational campaigns designed to reduce the risk that kids would be exposed to buprenorphine drugs used to treat opioid dependence. [I]t is critical for companies to be mandated to have safeguards in place to ensure children are not put at unnecessary risk," Richard Simkin, president of Reckitt Benckiser Pharmaceuticals, said in a release.

It seems to analysts that Reckitt wouldn't trouble to petition the FDA if it didn't have some commercial benefit in mind. The company's pharma division accounts for about 22% of overall sales--and Suboxone is that division's biggest seller.

The company said yesterday that discontinuing Suboxone tablets, which could face generic competition, was purely a public health move, not a strategy for protecting its Suboxone franchise. Liberum Capital analyst Pablo Zuanic took issue with that characterization. At a private meeting with analysts earlier this year, Zuanic told the Telegraph Reckitt CEO Rakesh Kapoor said pulling the tablet version, thereby forcing patients to switch to the film, would be "immoral."

Zuanic figures that cutting off the Suboxone tablet supply could backfire, especially given that the pharma division could well attract a buyer: "We see this as a desperate move by Reckitt Benckiser Pharmaceuticals that may, in the end, destroy value and also reduce whatever the potential market value may be of [Reckitt Benckiser Pharmaceuticals] in the eyes of any potential suitors."

- read the release from Reckitt
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