OxyContin maker cuts sales staff, won't hawk drug to docs
The maker of the powerful painkiller OxyContin said it will stop marketing opioid drugs to doctors, bowing to a key demand of lawsuits that blame the company for helping trigger the current drug abuse epidemic.
"We have restructured and significantly reduced our commercial operation and will no longer be promoting opioids to prescribers", Purdue said in a statement.
The pharmaceutical company said it will cut its sales force by more than 50 percent, leaving about 200 people remaining in the department.
Purdue's sales representatives will now focus on the Symproic drug created to treat opioid-induced constipation, and other non-opioid products.
He said Purdue's decision is helpful, but it won't make a major difference unless other opioid drug companies do the same.
We were the first company to introduce an opioid pain medication with abuse-deterrent properties and labeling claims, and we are investing in research to develop non-opioid pain medications. It was an extended release version of the opiate Oxycodone, which had been used to treat pain since 1916.
The government pressure on opioid prescribing is having a profound effect.
The lawsuits accuse the companies of, among other things, misleading prescribers and the public by marketing opioids as a safe substitute for non-addictive pain medications such as ibuprofen.
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.
The health insurer Cigna also announced in October it would no longer cover OxyContin through employer-based plans, shortly after the pharmaceutical industry lobby group PhRMA broadly endorsed policies that limit opioid prescriptions to seven days. Opioid litigation increased sharply in 2017 when hundreds of cities, counties and states sued opioid makers, wholesalers, distributors and marketers. It later acknowledged that its promotions exaggerated the safety of the drug and minimized its risk for addiction.