OxyContin maker says it will no longer market opioid to doctors

Whose Fault Is the Opioid Crisis?

Whose Fault Is the Opioid Crisis?

The pharmaceutical company that produces the painkiller OxyContin is slashing its sales staff and says it will halt, effective Monday, promotion of opioids to physicians and other health care professionals.

"We have restructured and significantly reduced our commercial operation and will no longer be promoting opioids to prescribers", the company said.

Up to one in four people who received prescriptions for opioid drugs such as OxyContin struggle with opioid addiction, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says. Purdue for years made the case that OxyContin was less addictive than other opioid painkillers, and that the risks of opioid addiction in general were overblown - claims partly rooted in a decades-old anecdotal letter rather than scientific research. The decision comes as the drug maker continues to face criticism for marketing addictive painkillers.

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Purdue's sales representatives will now focus on the Symproic drug created to treat opioid-induced constipation, and other non-opioid products.

The announcement, first reported by Bloomberg, marks the end of an era for a company that changed the paradigm for opioid use in part through aggressive, in-person marketing to doctors.

A surge in prescriptions of opioids followed the 1995 release of the drug when about 90 million opioid prescriptions were filled.

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At least 14 states have sued Purdue, and many cities including Greenfield and Springfield in Western Massachusetts. Other lawsuits remain, and a key demand in the remaining lawsuits was that Purdue Pharma drop its direct marketing efforts for pain medications.

Purdue and three executives pleaded guilty in 2007 to federal charges related to the misbranding of OxyContin and agreed to pay $634.5 million to resolve a U.S. Justice Department probe. Costs of opioid addiction to the USA economy have been estimated to be as high as $78.5 billion.

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