Lawsuits are being filed against the makers of the drug Suboxone, claiming that patients suffered dental issues after taking Suboxone sublingual film to treat their opioid addictions. The company that makes the pain management drug, should have known about the risk of tooth decay, but they did not warn users about tooth decay and other adverse effects. Attorney Sara Papantonio joins Mike Papantonio to talk about what’s happening.

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*This transcript was generated by a third-party transcription software company, so please excuse any typos.

Mike Papantonio: Lawsuits are being filed against the makers of the drug Suboxone, claiming the patient suffered dental issues after taking the drug. And you know what? The problem continues. Sara, I gotta tell you, this is just another one of those stories where there’s this big money grab. Okay. You were involved in handling part of the opioid crisis, as you know, I kind of headed part of that up. We saw people dying at 150 a day from opioid addiction. So drug company then says, okay, we’ve got the pharmaceutical industry has addicted all these people. Now let’s come up with something that’s gonna get ’em off of this drug if they live at all. So here you got a product that’s causing havoc. Everything from dental loss that’s very serious, tongue disformation. It’s a problem that we’re faced with again, it’s pharmacy at it again, pharmaceuticals at it again. Right?

Sara Papantonio: Right. We have a company yet again, taking advantage of the people who have just truly been through the ringer. People who were addicted to opioid drugs and were never told that that product was addictive. Right. And now when they’re taking steps to correct that addiction, when they’re taking steps to get their life back and using a drug called Suboxone, what we’re finding is that they have an increased risk of severe dental disorders, dental decay, cavities.

Mike Papantonio: Yeah. You’re gonna be taking depositions in this case and I have some predictions. When you take depositions from the clinicians, you’re gonna find they phonied up clinical data. We see it all the time with these kinds of cases. The FDA, we think FDA is there to look after us, but they don’t have the time to look after us. Give us the 10,000 foot of what the case is about generally.

Sara Papantonio: So what we have is Suboxone. Suboxone is a drug used to treat opioid addiction. And it comes in two forms. It comes in a pill form or a film form, meaning that we put that inside of our mouth or under our tongue and it dissolves. And that ultimately reduces the cravings that you would get from opioid addiction. Right. What’s happening is that film is incredibly acidic in the mouth. So it’s causing extensive tooth decay. People are losing entire halves of their mouth in terms of teeth.

Mike Papantonio: Like meth. Just like a meth user might. I mean, anybody using meth, their teeth just disappear basically.

Sara Papantonio: Right. Their mouths are rotting from the inside out. And the problem here is that we’ve got a company that has been aware of that issue for a long time.

Mike Papantonio: How aware?

Sara Papantonio: And so here’s where the story is, and this is what makes it just so awful from a pharmaceutical standpoint, is Indivior is the company that manufactures the Suboxone film. In about 2009 Indivior’s patent was about to run up for the tablet form, meaning that they would have to open their brand up to generic use and everyone would come flooding into the market. They said, hold on, we don’t want anyone to enter our space. We like the money we’re making, we like how this is going for us. So they changed the nature of that drug to a film version. And that’s when all of these problems started.

Mike Papantonio: Same product, same issues, same damage to the mouth. They just put in the film and the film goes just under the tongue you say, or up in the cheek?

Sara Papantonio: On the side of the mouth. And that’s what’s causing all this.

Mike Papantonio: So we’re not just talking about minor, we’re not talking about minor tooth decay, we’re talking about tooth fractures, oral surgeries that have to take place. Tongue injuries, gum injuries that are very serious. And the problem is, most of these lead to other health problems. They leave to sepia, they leave to a whole host of other health problems. So what’s your plan on this case? I know you’re gonna be heading up with some other folks. What’s the plan on handling this?

Sara Papantonio: So the plan is to pursue litigation against the company who manufactures this, Indivior. And the good news is, is that people have already taken steps against Indivior. They’ve been criminally fined by the DOJ, which as you know, as we’ve talked about, does not happen here.

Mike Papantonio: Yeah. Impossible to begin with.

Sara Papantonio: The CEO pled guilty here. So this is, I mean, there’s a lot of momentum behind this in addition to those antitrust lawsuits that I was talking about related to the patent. So you’re seeing a lot of litigation being filed against this company and the next step is for us to represent the actual individuals harmed by this.

Mike Papantonio: Yeah. I think people watching this don’t understand how significant that is to have the Department of Justice actually do something when criminal activity takes place. Look, 150 people a day died on opioids, right? Not one of the CEOs was prosecuted. Nobody prosecuted. And so here, when the DOJ said, well, God, I guess we gotta do something, it’s gotta be serious. Those depositions are gonna be a lot of fun, I predict. The FDA, talk about their fines. Didn’t they have fines in addition to this? How much?

Sara Papantonio: So it’s the DOJ fines and then the antitrust litigation that’s happening. So you had the DOJ come in and say, you’re actually falsely misrepresenting your product. And they, Indivior pled guilty for felony counts and the CEO pled guilty.

Mike Papantonio: Unheard of.

Sara Papantonio: Which does not happen. So that just cues us into, there’s a really, really awful liability story that I think is gonna come out of this case.

Mike Papantonio: I think you’re gonna have a lot of fun with this case. Go after ’em as hard as you can. But people are gonna listen to this and they’re gonna think, well, these are minor injuries. No, it’s not a minor injury. When you have four of your molars, you have four teeth fall out on one side, it causes the entire function of all the teeth on the other side to become dysfunctional. And the surgery that has to take place with implants, putting teeth back in. This is serious stuff. I mean, a typical case like this, you may have 120, $150,000 in damages on one of these serious cases.

Sara Papantonio:: We expect the injuries to be very severe here. And from a diagnosing perspective, exactly where that film is going is where people are having the extensive tooth loss. And so that is good from what we call a specific causation standpoint when we go to court, is because you can’t argue that the place you put the film is the place you have the tooth decay and the tooth loss here. And so that is significant. Right. And you have to understand it from the position of these are people whose lives have basically fallen apart and they’re trying to pick up the pieces and now their teeth are falling out. Can you imagine?

Mike Papantonio: Yeah. In other words, they’re going to these clinics, they’re saying, I was hooked on opioids. Here’s the problem with opioids. It’s not like an alcohol problem where you can go into a Betty Ford Center and come out. The opioid effects the dopamine level so severely in the brain that it’s a three year process. So these folks that say, well, I’m just gonna go to rehab and be, no, it’s a three year process. So this is something that they use during that three year period of time. Can they make a safer product? Of course they can. Are there alternatives? Of course.

Sara Papantonio: And that’s what’s so important here is I don’t want it to come out as these people are just trying to seek solutions and we’re just trying to negate those solutions. That’s absolutely not the case here. There are so many safer ways to get this types of treatment. There are dermal patches, there are injections, there are different pills. So lack of safer alternatives is not an option here. We are targeting the film only. That is the dangerous product.

Mike Papantonio: So, Sara, what happens is these facilities, they get started on something. Okay. Here’s the film, here’s the thing you put on your tongue, whatever it is. And then they try to keep that brand loyalty alive the entire time that that patient’s coming in for treatment. I think you’re gonna find secondary illnesses here. I think anything that’s close to the lymph glands like that, I think you’re gonna find secondary illnesses. But the main thing I think you’re gonna find is a lot of criminal conduct. Good luck on it. Go after these cases hard. Punish ’em for what they’ve done.

Sara Papantonio: I certainly will.

Mike Papantonio: Thanks for joining me. That’s all for this week. But all these segments will be posted right here on this channel in the coming week. So make sure you’ve subscribed. I’m Mike Papantonio and this has been America’s Lawyer, where we tell you stories every week that corporate media won’t tell you because their advertisers won’t let ’em tell those stories or their political connections don’t allow for it. They’re too Democrat or they’re too Republican and all they can deliver is Democrat talking points or Republican talking points. That’s not what we do around here. We know it some people off. That’s what we do. We’ll see you next time.

Mike Papantonio is an American attorney and television and radio talk show host. He is past president of The National Trial Lawyers, the most prestigious trial lawyer association in America; and is one of the few living attorneys inducted into the Trial Lawyer Hall of Fame. He hosts the international television show "America's Lawyer"; and co-hosts Ring of Fire Radio, a nationally syndicated weekly radio program, with Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and Sam Seder.