London-listed drugmaker Indivior and Reckitt Benckiser, its parent until Indivior was spun off in 2014, are facing a claim brought on behalf of hundreds of investors potentially worth hundreds of millions of pounds.
Wirral Council in north-west England wants to bring a representative claim based on an alleged scheme to switch the market for Suboxone from tablets, which were about to lose patent protection in the U.S., to a sublingual film.
But Reckitt Benckiser and Indivior, which deny the allegations, want the representative case dismissed.
Wirral Council says that when Indivior was indicted in the U.S. in 2019, in one of the few corporate prosecutions related to the U.S. opioid addiction epidemic, the news wiped out over 550 million pounds ($685.9 million) of its market value.
It is seeking a declaration that Reckitt Benckiser and Indivior published false, misleading or incomplete information to the markets about the alleged scheme.
Investors could then bring their own "follow-on" damages lawsuits based on the court's findings, which the council says would be cheaper, less complicated and promote "shareholder redress and access to justice".
But Reckitt Benckiser and Indivior argue a representative lawsuit would just give claimants other than Wirral Council a "free ride" until liability is decided.
They also say Wirral Council and others have brought a separate lawsuit which would continue if the representative case is dismissed.
Indivior has agreed to pay out over $500 million this year alone to settle civil lawsuits brought by drug wholesalers, dozens of U.S. states and health plans in relation to Suboxone.
In 2020, the company also agreed to pay $600 million to resolve U.S. government allegations that it fraudulently promoted Suboxone.
Reckitt Benckiser had agreed to pay out $1.4 billion to resolve any potential criminal or civil liability in 2019.
Reckitt Benckiser's lawyers said on Monday that the settlement was reached without any admission of liability.
(Reporting by Sam Tobin; editing by Christina Fincher)
By Sam Tobin