On Saturday, Purdue Pharma LP, the makers of OxyContin, announced they had cut their sales force in half and would stop promoting opioids to physicians. And yesterday, the company was set to let doctors know their sales reps would no longer visit physician offices to discuss opioid products. Moving forward the company would have only around 200 sales representatives. It’s shocking when part of the Big Pharma machine does something right but it’s about time.
If doctors have any opioid-related questions they will be directed to Purdue’s medical affairs department. From here on out, sales reps will “focus on Symproic, a drug for treating opioid-induced constipation, and other potential non-opioid products.”1
According to the CDC, in 2016 alone, opioids were involved in more than 42,000 overdose deaths and Purdue and other drugmakers have been fighting lawsuits by states, counties and cities, since. Most of the lawsuits have accused Purdue of downplaying addiction risk with the drug and of using deceptive or misleading marketing to overstate the “benefits of opioids for treating chronic, rather than short-term, pain.”2 In fact, 14 states so far have sued Purdue and last week Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall filed a lawsuit that accused the company of “deceptively marketing prescription opioids.”3
They are even facing a federal investigation by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Connecticut. So perhaps this move was less about doing the right thing and more about saving their own skin.
For their part, Purdue has denied the allegations and reminded everyone that their drugs have been approved by the ever trustworthy FDA.
But, lest we forget,
“Purdue and three executives pleaded guilty in 2007 to federal charges related to the misbranding of OxyContin and agreed to pay $634.5 million to resolve a U.S. Justice Department probe.
That year, Purdue also reached a $19.5-million settlement with 26 states and the District of Columbia. It agreed in 2015 to pay $24 million to resolve a lawsuit by Kentucky.”4
As I stated earlier, it is indeed time for the U.S. to start taking this epidemic serious. But we can’t trust Big Pharma to do what’s right. It’s up to us to keep the pressue on via lawsuits and articles that draw attention to the devastating effects of this drug- especially given the fact that there are other options.