Published: Mon, February 12, 2018
Health Care | By Belinda Paul

OxyContin maker Purdue will no longer market opioid drugs to doctors

OxyContin maker Purdue will no longer market opioid drugs to doctors

Purdue Pharmaceuticals, the maker of the opioid painkiller OxyContin, said it would no longer actively market opioid products - a major about-face for a company increasingly viewed as a principal culprit in the country's addiction and overdose crisis.

"The genie is already out of the bottle", said Dr. Andrew Kolodny, director of opioid policy research at Brandeis University and an advocate for stronger regulation of opioid drug companies. Many of those overdoses are attributed to other opioids, including fentanyl and heroin, which OxyContin users often switch to after becoming addicted to the painkiller.

"Effective Monday, February 12, 2018, our field sales organization will no longer be visiting your offices to engage you in discussions about our opioid products", Kwarcinski said in the letter, which was released to media outlets. The company will still handle requests from doctors who have questions about drugs such as OxyContin, through its medical affairs department. The move reduces the sales staff to 200 employees. Symproic is used to treat opioid-related constipation.

Alabama last Tuesday became the latest state to file a lawsuit accusing the private CT company of fueling the US epidemic by misrepresenting the risks and benefits of opioids.

Eventually, Purdue acknowledged that its promotions exaggerated the drug's safety and minimized the risks of addiction.

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.

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

Purdue Pharma denies allegations of complicity in the opioid epidemic and says it is committed to curbing rates of opioid abuse.

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

In 2016, there were 42,249 opioid-linked drug fatalities in the US - more than the number of deaths linked to breast cancer, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Purdue and three executives pleaded guilty and agreed to pay $634.5 million in civil and criminal fines.

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