In a surprise reversal, the maker of the powerful painkiller OxyContin said Saturday it’ll stop boosting opioid drugs to doctors.
Manufacturer Purdue bowed into a key requirement of lawsuits that blame the Connecticut-based company for helping activate the outbreak.
The organization’s statement said it removed more than half its sales employees per week and will no longer send sales agents to doctors’ offices to explore opioid drugs.
Its staying sales staff of roughly 200 will focus on additional medications.
Dr. Andrew Kolodny, director of opioid policy study at Brandeis University and an advocate for stronger regulation of opioid drug companies.
“The genie is out of the jar,” Kolodny said. “Millions of Americans are currently opioid-addicted because the effort that Purdue and other opioid manufacturers utilized to raise prescribing worked nicely. “
He said Purdue’s decision is helpful, but it will not make a major difference unless other opioid drug companies do exactly the same.
“We’d have more success in boosting careful prescribing if drug firms ceased promoting competitive prescribing,” he told the Times.
U.S. deaths linked to opioids have quadrupled since 2000 to roughly 42,000 in 2016, roughly 115 lives lost per day. More than 7 million Americans are estimated to have abused OxyContin because its 1996 debut, the Los Angeles Times reported.
The report said countries where OxyContin abuse rates were the greatest “experienced the biggest increases in heroin deaths,” a study from Penn’s Wharton School and Rand said.
OxyContin has long been the world’s top-selling opioid painkiller, earning billions in earnings for the privately-held company.
Finally, Purdue confessed its promotions exaggerated the drug’s safety and minimized the dangers of dependence.
“They are still doing so overseas,” Kolodny said of the international arm Mundipharma. “They are following the same playbook they utilized in the United States.”
Purdue along with other opioid drugmakers and pharmaceutical vendors continue defending themselves from hundreds of local and state lawsuits seeking to hold the industry accountable for the drug overdose epidemic.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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