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11 February 2018, 10:34 | Randall Craig
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OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma LP said on Saturday that it had slashed half its sales force and would stop dispatching sales representatives to physicians' offices to discuss its opioid drugs. The suits accuse pharmaceutical companies of pushing doctors to sell addictive painkillers.
Manufacturer Purdue bowed to a key demand of lawsuits that blame the Connecticut-based company for helping trigger the opioid epidemic.
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. Purdue Pharma has total revenue of about $3 billion, with perhaps a third of the total coming from painkiller OxyContin.
He said Purdue's decision is helpful, but it won't make a major difference unless other opioid drug companies do the same. 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. More recently, it has positioned itself as an advocate for fighting the opioid addiction crisis as overdoses from prescription drugs claim thousands of American lives each year. 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. It is also facing a federal investigation by the US Attorney's Office in CT, where the company is based.
Purdue said in a statement that it "vigorously denies" allegations of misconduct, adding that its products account for only "approximately 2%" of all opioid prescriptions.
Purdue agreed to pay $600 million in 2007 for misleading the public about the risks of using OxyContin.
Will the policy change have an impact?
According to the Centers for Disease Control, 42 thousand overdose deaths in 2016 were linked to opioids.
"It is hard to promote more cautious prescribing to the medical community because opioid manufacturers promote opioid use", he said.
Purdue Pharma will no longer target US doctors in its efforts to sell OxyContin, a prescription opioid whose overprescription fueled America's opioid crisis - and made billions for Purdue's founding family. Although initially driven by prescription drugs, most opioid deaths now involve illicit drugs, including heroin and fentanyl.
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