Purdue Pharma will stop promoting its opioid drugs to doctors

Kristoffer Tripplaar via NBC News

Kristoffer Tripplaar via NBC News

"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. The company continues to be the largest seller of prescription painkillers in the United States, and also has a prescription sleep aid line of drugs and over-counter-products.

"We have restructured and significantly reduced our commercial operation and will no longer be promoting opioids to prescribers", Purdue Pharma said in a statement. It added that its remaining 200 sales staff would focus on other non-opioid medication.

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. But some users quickly discovered they could get a heroin-like high by crushing the pills and snorting or injecting the entire dose at once.

Doctors who want information on opioids will now need to contact the company's medical affairs department.

The lawsuits have generally accused Purdue of downplaying OxyContin's addiction risk and of misleading marketing that overstated the benefits of opioids for treating chronic, rather than short-term, pain.

In recent years, several USA states, counties and cities have mounted legal cases accusing prescription drug companies of helping to drive a devastating opioid overdose epidemic in the United States. Opioid litigation increased sharply in 2017 when hundreds of cities, counties and states sued opioid makers, wholesalers, distributors and marketers.


Purdue has denied the allegations, stating that its drugs are approved by the US Food and Drug Administration and account for only 2 percent of all opioid prescriptions.

Will the policy change have an impact?

Opioids were involved in more than 42,000 overdose deaths in 2016, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"We would have more success in encouraging cautious prescribing if drug companies stopped promoting aggressive prescribing", he told the Times.

In a surprise move, Purdue Pharma, the manufacturer of the opiate painkiller OxyContin, has said that it will reduce its direct sales force and stop the direct marketing of opiates to doctors. Although initially driven by prescription drugs, most opioid deaths now involve illicit drugs, including heroin and fentanyl.

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