Indivior's Shaun Thaxter heads to prison, joining Insys' John Kapoor among jailed opioid execs
Update: An earlier version of this article misidentified the jailed Insys CEO. Former CEO John Kapoor was sentenced to 5.5 years in prison in January. Endpoints News regrets the error.
The Justice Department’s years-long battle with Indivior has arrived at a rare place: the jailing of a pharmaceutical executive.
A US district court sentenced long-running Indivior CEO Shaun Thaxter to 6 months in federal prison for his role in company efforts to mislead a major healthcare provider about the safety and abusability of their opioid addiction drug Suboxone, which generated billions in revenue over the last decade. Thaxter joins former Insys CEO John Kapoor as one of the only two executives to face prison time for their roles in the opioid epidemic.
Thaxter had been formally charged with one count of misdemeanor information. He also owes $100,000 and has to forfeit $500,000.
The Justice Department has broadly accused the British-based Indivior of developing a film version of its oral addiction med Suboxone in 2007, as the oral version was becoming generic, and then falsely branding it as less likely to be abused and less likely to be diverted for recreational use than its competitors. Suboxone contains buprenorphine, a powerful and addictive opioid that can be used to help recovering patients avoid withdrawal.
Thaxter became Indivior CEO in 2009 and, in 2012, oversaw efforts to get the drug covered in the Massachusetts Medicaid formulary, known as MassHealth, according to a Justice Department statement. That included directing employees to get Suboxone preferred status and counteract a non-opioid competitor. Indivior employees subsequently “shared false and misleading safety information” with MassHealth about the risk of kids being exposed to the drug.
Two months later, “MassHealth announced it would provide access to Suboxone Film for Medicaid patients with children under the age of six,” the DOJ said.
Indivior’s former parent company, RB Group, has already paid $1.4 billion to settle claims from the government, while an Indivior subsidiary, Indivior Solutions, pleaded guilty to felony charges. Along with the main company, they agreed to pay $600 million in damages.
“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 US Attorney Daniel Bubar said in a statement. “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.”
Another Indivior executive may soon join Thaxter behind bars. Timothy Baxter, the company’s former global medical director, pled guilty in August to one count of misdemeanor information for his role in marketing Suboxone. He awaits sentencing.