OxyContin maker to stop promoting opioids

OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma LP says it has cut its sales force in half and will stop promoting opioids to doctors, following widespread criticism of the ways that drugmakers market addictive painkillers.

The US drugmaker said it will inform doctors on Monday (local time) that its sales representatives will no longer be visiting doctors' offices to discuss its opioid products. It will now have about 200 sales representatives, Purdue said.

"We have restructured and significantly reduced our commercial operation and will no longer be promoting opioids to prescribers," the Stamford, Connecticut-based company said in a statement on Saturday.

Doctors with opioid-related questions will be directed to its medical affairs department. Its sales representatives will now focus on Symproic, a drug for treating opioid-induced constipation, and other potential non-opioid products, Purdue said.

Opioids were involved in more than 42,000 overdose deaths in 2016, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Amid the opioid epidemic, Purdue and other drugmakers have been fighting a wave of lawsuits by states, counties and cities that have accused them of pushing addictive painkillers through deceptive marketing.

The lawsuits have generally accused Purdue of significantly downplaying the risk of addiction posed by OxyContin and of engaging in misleading marketing that overstated the benefits of opioids for treating chronic, rather than short-term, pain.

At least 14 states have sued privately-held Purdue. Most recently, Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall filed a lawsuit on Tuesday accusing Purdue of deceptively marketing prescription opioids to generate billions of dollars in sales.

Reuters