OxyContin will no longer be marketed to doctors after states leveled drugmaker Purdue Pharma with lawsuits over the prescription painkiller’s addictive nature.
Purdue’s decision, announced over the weekend, will take effect Monday as the private company cut half its sales staff under the plan.
Those remaining 200 employees working in sales will focus on marketing non-opioid drugs made by Purdue, the company said.
OxyContin was first approved in 1995 as a version of oxycodone with a timed release, and was hailed for relieving pain for up to 12 hours.
But it created a high similar to heroin when those abusing the drug crushed and snorted it.
Purdue has also developed Hysingla, another opioid that lasts longer than its predecessor.
The Stamford, Conn.-based company has been under fire over how it markets the painkiller.
Purdue agreed to may over $630 million after pleading guilty in 2007 to misrepresenting how addictive OxyContin can be.
Last year, it was one of several drugmakers accused of marketing opioid painkillers as a safe product — only to fuel a nationwide drug epidemic.
A wave of lawsuits accused the companies of pushing the drugs, which patients became addicted to and then turned to other opioids like heroin.
More than 42,000 people died in 2016 of overdoses from prescription drugs, fentanyl and heroin, according to number released late last year by the National Center for Health Statistics.
Purdue maintains it’s followed governmental health guidelines on the opioid crisis, and indicated its drugs small percentages of prescribed opioids.
“We have restructured and significantly reduced our commercial operation and will no longer be promoting opioids to prescribers,” the company said in a statement.
Monica Kwarcinski, the company’s medical affairs chief, also wrote to prescribers that it planned to pull back on advertising.
“Requests for information about our opioid products will be handled through direct communication with the highly experienced health care professionals that comprise our Medical Affairs department,” she wrote in the note.
Some medical experts see it as a good first step, but think leaders need to go a little further.
“This recognition by Purdue is a step in the right direction, however, it only represents a small fraction of the problem,” Kevin O’Grady, head of Midwest Recovery Centers in Kansas City, told USA Today. “The focus still seems to be trying to stop this epidemic by increasing legal consequences, rather than treating it as an illness.”
- opioid nation