Shares in Indivior plunged on Friday after the pharmaceuticals firm revealed it had been hit by the beginnings of a £1bn opioid legal claim, which is worth more than the entire value of the drugmaker.

The move, brought to the high court by Indivior’s former parent company Reckitt Benckiser (RB), relates to the smaller company’s marketing of its Suboxone Film drug, which became embroiled last year in the US opioid crisis when a string of companies were accused of aggressive sales tactics which led to addiction and death.

In April of last year the US justice department charged Indivior with fraudulently claiming Suboxone Film was better and safer than similar drugs. The company, owned by Reckitt until 2014, also referred patients to doctors it knew to be prescribing opioids in a careless manner, the indictment said.

RB agreed to pay a $1.4bn (£1.1bn) fine to settle the case in July 2019, without any admission of wrongdoing, while earlier this year Indivior said it had “pleaded guilty to one count of making a false statement relating to healthcare matters in 2012” and that it would “make payments to federal and state authorities totalling $600m over a period of seven years”.

The latest legal move is understood to be a procedural step, as RB must commence any claim against Indivior within six years of the date of the demerger. It is thought that RB now has four months to file a formal claim and that settlement negotiations are ongoing.

The increase in addiction to opioids has become a recurring issue in politics in the US and the UK in recent years, prompting intense scrutiny of pharmaceutical firms. The US president, Donald Trump, declared the opioids crisis a public health emergency in 2017.

Shares in Indivior slumped by around 40% to 85p on Friday afternoon, before regaining some ground to be down 20% at 100p, which means the firm is now valued by the stock market at around £735m. The shares had been changing hands at more than 480p as recently as the spring of 2018.

Indivior said a statement to the stock exchange that the claim related to “an indemnity contained in the Demerger Agreement entered into between RB and the Company on November 17, 2014. The amount claimed under the submission is £1,073,622,580.51”.

The statement continued: “The claim has not been served on [Indivior] and the company does not have any further details at this time. The company will assess with its advisers the background and merits to the case and will provide an update in due course.”



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