OxyContin maker to stop promoting opioids

OxyContin maker will stop marketing opioid products to doctors amid scrutiny

Purdue Pharma, which manufactures a range of pain medications such as OxyContin, announced yesterday that it would no longer promote opioid drugs to physicians, and has laid off more than 50 percent of its sales force.

"We have restructured and significantly reduced our commercial operation and will no longer be promoting opioids to prescribers", Purdue Pharma said in a statement.

As reported by the Wall Street Journal, Purdue will continue selling the drug, but will no longer send salespeople to doctors' offices to promote it. Purdue will cut its US sales staff by more than half. "Requests for information about our opioid products will be handled through direct communication with the highly experienced health care professionals that comprise our Medical Affairs department".

Andrew Kolodny, from the Heller School for Social Policy and Management's Opioid Policy Research, said that the impact of Purdue's decision is small but there could be a bigger effect if other opioid makers will stop the aggressive marketing of their products. Purdue officials confirmed in November that they were in settlement talks with a group of state attorneys general and trying to come up with a global resolution of the government opioid claims. It will now have about 200 sales representatives, Purdue said. The FDA approved OxyContin in 1995, and the drug was hailed as a medical breakthrough because of its ability to help patients suffering from moderate to severe pain.




US deaths linked to opioids have quadrupled since 2000 to roughly 42,000 in 2016, or about 115 lives lost per day.

The lawsuits say Purdue misled prescribers and the public by marketing opioids as a safe substitute for non-addictive pain medications such as ibuprofen and contributed to an increase in heroin use. Because OxyContin was an extended release version of Oxycodone, requiring use only once every twelve hours, many initially believed that it would be less addictive than other narcotics.

Purdue's promotions exaggerated the drug's safety and risks of addiction, leading to lawsuits and federal investigations.

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