OxyContin Maker to Stop Marketing Opioid Products to Physicians

Kristoffer Tripplaar via NBC News

Purdue and other opioid makers and distributors face dozens of lawsuits in which they're accused of creating a public health crisis through their marketing of the painkillers.

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. It plans to send a letter Monday to doctors saying that its sales representatives will no longer come to their clinics to promote the company's pain-relieving products.

About 200 remaining Purdue salespeople will focus on promoting the company's drug to treat opioid-induced constipation, Symproic.

Andrew Kolodny, director of opioid policy research at Brandeis University in MA, told the Associated Press that although Purdue's decision to stop marketing the drug is helpful, it won't make a major difference unless other opioid drug companies follow suit.

The pharmaceutical giant behind the painkiller OxyContin is "restructuring", announcing Friday they will stop promoting their opioid-based drug to doctors.

"The genie is already out of the bottle", Kolodny said.

He said Purdue's decision is helpful, but it won't make a major difference unless other opioid drug companies do the same.

More than 60,000 people died from drug overdoses in the U.S.in 2016, overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids rose to about 20,000 in 2016 compared with 3,105 in 2013, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"It is hard to promote more cautious prescribing to the medical community because opioid manufacturers promote opioid use", he said.

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

OxyContin has always been the world's top-selling opioid painkiller, bringing in billions in sales for privately held Purdue, which also sells a newer and longer-lasting opioid drug called Hysingla.

"They are still doing this overseas", Kolodny said of their worldwide arm Mundipharma.

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

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