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OxyContin maker Purdue cuts sales team, won't market opioids

11 February 2018

Purdue Pharma will no longer target US doctors in its efforts to sell OxyContin, a prescription opioid whose overprescription fueled America's opioid crisis - and made billions for Purdue's founding family.

Opioids, though, were involved in more than 42,000 overdose deaths in 2016, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the most recent figures suggest that 145 Americans now die every day from overdoses.

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.

Purdue and other opioid drugmakers and pharmaceutical distributors continue defending themselves against hundreds of local and state lawsuits seeking to hold the industry accountable for the drug overdose epidemic.

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The company's statement 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.

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.

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

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

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The restructuring comes amid lawsuits filed by Ohio, Alabama and Washington attorneys general who allege Purdue has exacerbated the opioid drug addiction crisis through its sale and marketing of OxyContin.

"Overall, the impact will be small because the genie is out of the bottle", Kolodny said.

OxyContin was launched by Purdue Pharma in 1995. The company was found to have overstated how long the effects of the medication lasted and severely downplayed the addiction risks of the drug.

In 2010, the company reformulated Oxycontin so it would be hard to crush.

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Purdue and three former executives pleaded guilty in federal court a decade ago to criminal charges of misleading the public about the addictive nature of OxyContin, paying more than $630 million in fines and penalties. It later acknowledged that its promotions exaggerated the safety of the drug and minimized its risk for addiction.

OxyContin maker Purdue cuts sales team, won't market opioids