OxyContin maker cuts sales staff, won't hawk drug to docs

Joy Montgomery
February 12, 2018

Purdue Pharmaceuticals, the maker of the opioid painkiller OxyContin, said it would no longer actively market opioid products - a major about-face for a company increasingly viewed as a principal culprit in the country's addiction and overdose crisis.

The boom in OxyContin prescriptions, and the resulting expansion of the deadly abuse of opioids, has been consistently blamed on Purdue's aggressive and misleading marketing of the drug.

As reported by the Wall Street Journal, Purdue will continue selling the drug, but will no longer send salespeople to doctors' offices to promote it. Purdue will cut its USA sales staff by more than half.

Purdue and other opioid makers and distributors face dozens of lawsuits - including from New Hampshire and the cities of Manchester and Nashua - in which they're accused of creating a public health crisis through their marketing of the painkillers.

In 2007, Purdue Pharma and three of its executives pleaded guilty to criminal charges of misrepresenting their product's addictiveness, and paid a total of $635 million in fines.

"Effective Monday, February 12, 2018, our field sales organization will no longer be visiting your offices to engage you in discussions about our opioid products", Kwarcinski said in the letter, which was released to media outlets.

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Purdue said in a statement it is reducing its sales force by more than 50%. Symproic is used to treat opioid-related constipation.

US deaths linked to opioids have quadrupled since 2000 to roughly 42,000 in 2016, or about 115 lives lost per day.

Growing awareness of Purdue's handling of OxyContin has also recently attracted scrutiny of the Sacklers, the family that controls the privately held firm.

Purdue has been sued by many state attorneys general as part of the battle against opioids that has accelerated in the last two years since the DEA and CDC have ratcheted up regulatory pressure on the prescription and supply of opioids.

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

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