Health Care

Oxycontin maker Purdue Pharma will stop promoting opioids to physicians

Oxycontin maker Purdue Pharma will stop promoting opioids to physicians

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.

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 Pharma's medical affairs team will now field any questions regarding pain medications from doctors.

The lawsuits say drugmakers misled doctors and patients about the risks of opioids by enlisting "front groups" and "key opinion leaders" who oversold the drugs' benefits and encouraged overprescribing.

Because of Oxycontin's rising cost, many people who developed an addiction to the opioid subsequently turned to heroin, contributing to the ongoing drug epidemic.

State lawsuits against Purdue have mounted in recent months as governments at all levels have struggled to combat the opioid epidemic - much of which, experts say, was caused by excessive prescription of powerful painkillers like OxyContin.

OxyContin is the nation's top-selling opioid painkiller.

"We are deeply troubled by the opioid crisis, and we are dedicated to being part of the solution", the company said.

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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.

"It is hard to promote more cautious prescribing to the medical community because opioid manufacturers promote opioid use", Dr. Kolodny said.

Purdue Pharma pleaded guilty in 2007 to felony charges for false marketing of OxyContin and paid $635 million as a result.

Purdue's decision to entirely stop marketing the drug in the USA comes amid a new wave of legal action, reminiscent of the legal campaign against tobacco companies in the 1990s. It later acknowledged that its promotions exaggerated the safety of the drug and minimized its risk for addiction. But the drug continued to rack up blockbuster sales.

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

Instead, the company said it will direct prescribers to materials published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the office of the US surgeon general. The CDC also reported that more than 1,000 people are treated in emergency rooms for prescription opioid overdoses.


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