Purdue Pharma, the maker of the opioid OxyContin, said it would stop promoting the addictive drug to U.S. doctors. This comes after 22 years of harsh criticism attributed to the aggressive sales efforts that many believe helped lay the foundation of the U.S. addiction crisis. The company will continue to sell the drug. However, their salesforce will no longer be visiting offices to engage in the discussions about opioid products. Purdue also plans to cut its sales force by more than 50%, to about 200 representatives. The remaining sales representatives will market non-opioid products including the company’s new opioid-induced constipation drug, Symproic which was released last year. Many public health officials believe that Purdue’s aggressive marketing of OxyContin encouraged lax prescribing by doctors which led to widespread addiction. Since the early 1990’s more than 300,000 Americans have died from opioid overdoses.
This is not the first time Purdue has been under fire. In 2007, Purdue and three of its executives pleaded guilty in federal court to criminal charges of misleading the public about the addictive qualities of OxyContin. In its guilty plea, Purdue admitted the company’s sales tactics included false claims that OxyContin was less addictive, less subject to abuse, and less likely to cause withdrawal symptoms than other pain medications. Purdue’s halt of their marketing efforts is likely due to the growing legal scrutiny they are currently facing. More than a dozen states and about 400 cities and counties in the U.S. have sued Purdue or other opioid -painkiller makers, accusing them of fueling addiction by misrepresenting the risk of their drugs. Purdue has said it is “Dedicated to being part of the solution.” In October of 2017, Purdue was the subject of a probe by federal prosecutors related to OxyContin and is currently under investigation.