OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma LP to stop promoting opioids to physicians: report

The company will reportedly reduce its commercial operation, too

By Nicole Karlis

Published February 10, 2018 5:38PM (EST)

 (AP Photo/Chris Post)
(AP Photo/Chris Post)

Purdue Pharma LP, an opioid maker that has been at the center of several lawsuits following America’s opioid crisis, said it will discontinue promoting opioids to prescribers, according to a report in Reuters.

“We have restructured and significantly reduced our commercial operation and will no longer be promoting opioids to prescribers,” the company said in a statement to Reuters. “Doctors with opioid-related questions will be directed to its medical affairs department.”

The company also said it will reportedly turns its focus to “other potential non-opioid products.”

“Its sales representatives will now focus on Symproic, a drug for treating opioid-induced constipation, and other potential non-opioid products,” the statement said.

The announcement could be a result of the several lawsuits the company is facing.

“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,” Reuters staff explained in the report.

According to data by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) prescription opioid sales nearly quadrupled from 1999 to 2014; during this timespan, overdose deaths from prescription opioids increased as well. While opioid prescriptions should only be prescribed to cancer patients, or those with pain-related diagnosis, only an estimated one out of five fit the bill. Overdose deaths from opioid prescriptions were fives times higher in 2016 than they were in 1999, and overall, 40 percent of all U.S. opioid overdose deaths involved prescription drugs.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse found that half of young people who inject heroin abused opioid prescriptions first; in other words, opioid prescriptions are often a gateway to heroin.

Some cities like New York have taken matters into their own hands and sued the manufacturers and distributors of opioid prescription drugs.

“More New Yorkers have died from opioid overdoses than car crashes and homicides combined in recent years. Big Pharma helped to fuel this epidemic by deceptively peddling these dangerous drugs and hooking millions of Americans in exchange for profit,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said. “It’s time for hold the companies accountable for what they’ve done to our City, and help save more lives.”

The state of Alabama was the latest to join the string of cities and states to file a lawsuit against opioid makers.

“It will take years to undo the damage but an important first step we must take is to hold the parties responsible for this epidemic legally liable for the destruction they have unleashed upon our citizens,” Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall said in a statement.

Nicole Karlis

Nicole Karlis is a staff writer at Salon. Tweet her @nicolekarlis.

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Opioid Crisis Oxycontin Purdue Pharma Lp