OxyContin maker stops promoting opioids

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"We have restructured and significantly reduced our commercial operation and will no longer be promoting opioids to prescribers", representatives of Purdue Pharma said in a statement to Bloomberg Friday evening.

The company slashed more than half of its current sales force, alerting staff to the changes in a letter earlier this week.

Pain-pill giant Purdue Pharma LP will stop promoting its opioid drugs to doctors, a retreat after years of criticism that the company's aggressive sales efforts helped lay the foundation of the US addiction crisis.

In 2010 Purdue reformulated OxyContin to make it harder to crush and stopped selling the original form of the drug.

Purdue Pharmaceuticals, the maker of the powerful painkiller OxyContin, said on Saturday it will stop marketing opioid drugs to physicians following a slew of lawsuits against the company over the opioid epidemic, The Hill reports.

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

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Its sales representatives will now focus on Symproic, a drug for treating opioid-induced constipation, and other potential non-opioid products, Purdue said.

"Overall, the impact will be small because the genie is out of the bottle", he said of the opioid manufacturer's decision. "Millions of Americans are now opioid-addicted because the campaign that Purdue and other opioid manufacturers used to increase prescribing worked well". That is approximately $1 billion less than its all-time high in 2013.

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. Users soon learned that they could bypass its time-release function by crushing the pills and snorting or injecting them. But the drug continued to rack up blockbuster sales. Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall filed a lawsuit on Tuesday accusing Purdue of deceptively marketing prescription opioids. The drug maker noted an 18 percent uptick in sales from nurses and physician assistants between 2014 to 2015.

Up to one in four people who received prescriptions for opioid drugs such as OxyContin struggle with opioid addiction, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse reported that opioid pain reliever prescriptions escalated from 76 million in 1991 to almost 207 million in 2013.

The move comes as opioid addiction continues to take a devastating toll on large swathes of the United States.