FILE - This Feb. 19, 2013, file photo, shows OxyContin pills arranged for a photo at a pharmacy in Montpelier, Vt. Overdoses don't happen just to heroin addicts _ patients who legally use strong painkillers called opioids are at risk in the nation’s epidemic, too. A new study says when patients were prescribed an overdose antidote along with those medications, they made fewer painkiller-related visits to the emergency room. The study released on June 27, 2016, went a step further _ to see if the take-home antidote idea also could work for patients with chronic pain who may not realize they could accidentally get into trouble with prescription painkillers such as Oxycontin, Vicodin and others. (AP Photo/Toby Talbot, File) (AP)

Purdue Pharma, makers of Oxycontin, lays off remaining sales staff: report

The pharmaceutical giant is still reeling over allegations that it stoked the opioid crisis


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Nicole Karlis
June 21, 2018 12:26AM (UTC)

Purdue Pharma L.P., a Big Pharma corporation facing multiple lawsuits over its role in feeding America’s opioid problem, laid off 350 employees this week— half of whom were part of its remaining sales staff, according to Reuters.

According to Bloomberg, those who were laid off this week were pushing Symproic, a treatment for opioid-induced constipation. Purdue Pharma also made Oxycontin.

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“While the development of important new medicines will be the company’s priority going forward, we will continue to support our opioid analgesic product portfolio while continuing our commitment to take meaningful steps to reduce opioid abuse and addiction,” the company said in a statement.

This marks another chapter in Purdue's role in creating a massive addiction epidemic in the country. Earlier this year, the company said it was planning on stopping opioid sales to physicians and was focusing on restructuring.  The company previously announced layoffs in February.

“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.”

According to data by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), prescription opioid sales nearly quadrupled from 1999 to 2014; during this time span, 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.

Some cities like New York have sued the manufacturers of prescription opioids.

“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.”

Various states have filed lawsuits, too.

“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 news writer at Salon. She covers health, science, tech and gender politics. Tweet her @nicolekarlis.

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