Pain Pill Giant Purdue to Stop Promotion of Opioids to Doctors

Kristoffer Tripplaar via NBC News

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 4 people who received prescriptions to drugs like Oxycontin now struggle with an opioid addiction.

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.

The unexpected shift in policy from Purdue Pharma is likely a concession to the demands of dozens of states and localities suing the drug maker, along with other manufacturers of opioid painkillers, for igniting the addiction crisis through deceptive marketing practices that downplayed the risks of their drugs.

About 115 people die in the United States every day from an opioid overdose.

"We have restructured and significantly reduced our commercial operation and will no longer be promoting opioids to prescribers", the company said.

Purdue's head of medical affairs, Monica Kwarcinski, said the company also plans to run all questions through its medical affairs department as part of its efforts to support "responsible" opioid use.

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OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma LP said on Saturday that it has cut its sales force in half and will stop promoting opioids to physicians, following widespread criticism of the ways that drugmakers market addictive painkillers. It will now have about 200 sales representatives, Purdue said.

Its sales representatives will now focus on Symproic, a drug for treating opioid-induced constipation, and other potential non-opioid products, Purdue said. "Millions of Americans are now opioid-addicted because the campaign that Purdue and other opioid manufacturers used to increase prescribing worked well". Users soon learned that they could bypass its time-release function by crushing the pills and snorting or injecting them. Both said opioid drugs make up a very small portion of their total revenue.

In 2010, the company reformulated Oxycontin so it would be hard to crush. But he said the companies have promoted them as a treatment for chronic pain, where they are more harmful and less helpful, because it's more profitable. The company's top lawyer, former president and former chief medical pleaded guilty to misbranding the drug.

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

Purdue and other opioid drugmakers and pharmaceutical distributors continue defending themselves against hundreds of local and state lawsuits seeking to hold the industry accountable for the drug overdose epidemic.

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