(Adds comment from defense lawyer and Indivior)
June 30 (Reuters) - Shaun Thaxter, the former chief executive of drugmaker Indivior Plc, pleaded guilty on Tuesday to a criminal charge arising out of a U.S. Justice Department investigation into the marketing of its opioid addiction treatment Suboxone.
Thaxter pleaded guilty in federal court in Abingdon, Virginia to a misdemeanor count of introducing misbranded drugs into interstate commerce. The plea came a day after Indivior said he was stepping down as CEO.
Prosecutors said Thaxter failed to prevent employees from sharing misleading safety information about the drug with Massachusetts’ Medicaid program as it considered expanding coverage for it.
Wick Sollers, his attorney, said Thaxter was “unaware of the alleged misstatements when they were made.” Thaxter faces up to one year in prison when he is sentenced on Sept. 29 and has agreed to pay $600,000 in fines and forfeitures.
The plea came after Indivior in April 2019 was indicted and charged with engaging in an illegal scheme to boost prescriptions of Suboxone in one of the few corporate prosecutions related to the U.S. opioid addiction epidemic.
Prosecutors alleged Indivior deceived doctors and healthcare benefit programs into believing the film version of Suboxone, which has an opioid component, was safer and less susceptible to abuse than similar drugs.
The indictment said Indivior also used an internet and telephone program touted as a resource for opioid addicts to connect them to doctors it knew were prescribing Suboxone and other opioids at high rates and in suspect circumstances.
Prosecutors said the scheme began before British consumer goods company Reckitt Benckiser spun off Indivior. Reckitt Benckiser last year agreed to pay $1.4 billion to resolved related claims.
Slough, England-based Indivior denies wrongdoing and is scheduled to face trial in September. Indivior on Tuesday said it is working to “resolve outstanding investigations and litigations as expeditiously as possible.” (Reporting by Nate Raymond in Boston Editing by Chris Reese and Marguerita Choy)