The pharmaceutical company that produces the painkiller OxyContin is slashing its sales staff and says it will halt, effective Monday, promotion of opioids to physicians and other health care professionals. The company will still handle requests from doctors who have questions about drugs such as OxyContin, through its medical affairs department. Instead, the company said it will direct prescribers to materials published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the office of the US surgeon general.
Purdue's decision to entirely stop marketing the drug in the USA comes amid a new wave of legal action, reminiscent of the legal campaign against tobacco companies in the 1990s. 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.
Lawsuits have accused Purdue Pharma of being a prime contributor to the current opioid epidemic in the United States through the aggressive marketing of OxyContin. "But if other opioid manufacturers would do the same, it would have a bigger effect".More news: Activision stock rises after revenue beat
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This announcement is coming after widespread criticism of the ways drug-makers market addictive painkillers. It has said its drugs are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and account for only 2 percent of all opioid prescriptions. States including Montana, New Jersey, and Alabama, as well as some cities, have sued Purdue, claiming that the opioid epidemic has reduced lifespans and caused massive social and economic damage.
Purdue is also facing a federal investigation by the U.S. Attorney's Office in CT.
Dozens of lawsuits across the country allege Purdue Pharma launched a fraudulent marketing scheme to boost sales of OxyContin in the late 1990s that downplayed the risks for addiction from pain medication. Costs of opioid addiction to the US economy have been estimated to be as high as $78.5 billion.