Purdue Pharma, makers of the popular painkiller OxyContin, has announced that its going to stop marketing their opioid drugs to physicians. The drugmaker has come under fire recently for its part in the opioid epidemic in the US, which contributed to the death of 20,000 people in 2016.
The decision will have a significant effect on pharmaceutical sales staff working for Purdue, of which over 200 will lose their jobs. Purdue will also be informing doctors that salespeople will no longer be visiting clinics to promote the opioid painkillers.
“We have restructured and significantly reduced our commercial operation and will no longer be promoting opioids to prescribers,” the company said in a statement.
Since its approval in 1995, OxyContin has remained a blockbuster drug for Purdue and is the company’s best-selling product. Generic competition and the shift away from prescribing highly-addictive opioids have, however, had a dampening effect on sales of OxyContin.
In 2012, sales of OxyContin totalled $2.8 billion, but this number dropped dramatically to $1.8 billion in 2017.
Purdue is currently facing dozens of lawsuits filed by cities and states across the US, including New York, Alabama and Washington. Officials claim that Purdue’s aggressive marketing techniques for OxyContin and their other opioid drugs has played a major part in the prescription drug addiction problem facing the country today.
The company’s 200-person sales team will now focus on promoting Symproic, a drug designed to combat the effects of opioid induced constipation. For its part, Purdue is now trying to change its image as a contributor to the opioid epidemic, to a company involved in finding a solution to the problem.
“The prescription and illicit opioid abuse crisis is a multifaceted public health challenge, and as a manufacturer of prescription opioids, we have a responsibility to join the fight,” says a statement on the drugmaker’s website. “At Purdue we are committed to lead our industry in helping address our nation’s prescription and illicit opioid abuse crisis.”