Published: Mon, February 12, 2018
Medical | By

Maker of OxyContin to stop promoting opioids to doctors

Maker of OxyContin to stop promoting opioids to doctors

Accordingly, the company has laid off more than 50 percent of its sales force, with the remaining employees focusing on non-opioid products.

The company also said it eliminated more than half its sales staff this week and will no longer send sales representatives to doctors' offices to discuss opioid drugs.

A pharmacist holds prescription painkiller OxyContin, 40mg pills, made by Purdue Pharma a local pharmacy, in Provo, Utah, U.S., April 25, 2017.

The maker of the powerful painkiller OxyContin said it will stop marketing opioid drugs to doctors, bowing to a key demand of lawsuits that blame the company for helping trigger the current drug abuse epidemic. Physicians who have opioid-related questions will be directed to Purdue's medical affairs department.

Dr. Andrew Kolodny, the co-director of Opioid Policy Research at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management, said he wished that the company had chose to stop marketing the drug years ago and that other opioid manufacturers would agree to do the same. "But if other opioid manufacturers would do the same, it would have a bigger effect". That is approximately $1 billion less than its all-time high in 2013.

The lawsuits have generally accused Purdue of significantly downplaying the risk of addiction posed by OxyContin and of engaging in misleading marketing that overstated the benefits of opioids for treating chronic, rather than short-term, pain. Users soon learned that they could bypass its time-release function by crushing the pills and snorting or injecting them.

The pharmaceutical giant behind the painkiller OxyContin is "restructuring", announcing Friday they will stop promoting their opioid-based drug to doctors. Officials in Tennessee, which filed a lawsuit against Purdue Pharma Sept. 29, claim the company's tactics served as a model for other major drug makers to do the same thing. They were placed on probation for three years and ordered to perform 400 hours of community service. But the drug continued to rack up blockbuster sales.

Allergan, which makes three opioid pain medications, said it has not actively marketed those drugs in years, and Janssen Pharmaceuticals, a unit of Johnson & Johnson, said it stopped marketing the medications in 2015.

Figures from the U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that one in four people who received prescriptions to opioid drugs such as Oxycontin struggle with addiction.

The move comes as opioid addiction continues to take a devastating toll on large swathes of the United States.

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