Purdue Pharma LP, the company responsible for manufacturing and sponsoring the potent painkiller OxyContin, explained it reduced its sales force by a half and declared it would stop promoting opioids to doctors. The corporation, blamed for addictions developed on certain patients, expects to avoid further lawsuits with these regulations.

Only about two hundred representatives remained in the US, and they will not visit doctors’ offices to discuss and promote their opioid products anymore. Doctors will be officially informed of this situation on Monday, and those with doubts related to opioid products will be audited by the company’s medical affair department.


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The company announced it wouldn’t advertise OxyContin anymore. Image credit: AP

Andrew Kolodny, a researcher member of the Brandeis University, greeted the decision taken by the company. Nevertheless, he stated that it seems to be late “in the game” for the actions made to have a more significant impact. Kolodny had long criticized the role of the pharmaceutical industry in the epidemic caused by the opioid.

Attempts of reducing overdoses

Mr. Kolodny believes that the campaign created by the companies met its goal when Purdue Pharma successfully promoted the increased prescribing of opioids overall. He explains that the best evidence of this theory is that millions of Americans are currently addicted to opioids, which translates into the growing epidemic statistics.

The drug became harder to obtain, and the pharmaceutic company managed to manufacture a version of the product that wasn’t as easy to snort, inject or smoke. On the bright side, OxyContin misuse declined, and the company praised this as a testimony of it trying to help put an end to the epidemic. Still, overdose numbers kept rising.

These changes and the higher price put on the drug led many addicts to switch to a cheaper opioid, heroin. Los Angeles Times even mentions a study published in January 2017, made by the University of Pennsylvania and Rand Corp, which blames OxyContin for contributing to the emergence of heroin overdoses, instead of cutting back the number of deaths.

While Purdue Pharma expects to improve the outlook of the situation, Mr. Kolodny seems skeptical and questions the ceasing of the promotions of the drugs, just as the aftermath. Furthermore, he already reflects about the global issue that the international arm of the company, Mundipharma, represents. He says:

“If it takes off the way it did in the United States, these other countries will be dealing with the same problem we are dealing with today.”

Drug dealers and lawsuits

“Shouldn’t the DEA be contacted about this? I feel very certain this is an organized drug ring…”

A statement made by the sales manager, Michele Ringler, addressed to Purdue Pharma officials in an email in 2009.

Doctors involved in the drug rings ordered up to 73,000 pills, a number of pills that not even pharmacies sell throughout a month. The central conflict appears, according to an investigation made by Los Angeles Times, when evidence collected by Purdue Pharma was not shown to the authorities.

The research shows that extensive proofs of illegal trafficking of OxyContin were hidden for over a decade by the company, and the orders and supplies were never reduced. The journal also explains that Purdue Pharma knew not only about questionable pharmacies and doctors from orders and prescriptions, but also had documents evidencing the illegitimacy in their surveillance operations.

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The potent painkiller is responsible for many people’s addiction to opioids. Image credit: Purdue Pharma

However, the company’s attorney argued that the appellants suing Purdue Pharma failed to demonstrate the connection between Purdue’s decisions and the actions taken by drug dealers and addicts, alongside other legal weaknesses. In a case appealed by Everett, a small city located in the north of Seattle, lawyers of Purdue Pharma declared:

“There is no basis in law for a municipality to bring such an action against a pharmaceutical manufacturer.”

14 states filed lawsuits against the company, including Steve Marshall, Alabama Attorney General who blamed Purdue Pharma for marketing prescription opioid with the purpose of having profits of billions of dollars. The company also faces a federal investigation opened by the US Attorney’s Office in Connecticut.

Purdue Pharma declares its products are approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and its drugs only represent a 2% of the opioid prescriptions. This sets a foundation for them to deny different kinds of allegations made against them in several lawsuits.

A dark past Purdue Pharma can’t deny

In 2016, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published a report in which it involved opioids in more than 42,000 overdose deaths.

On a revised publication made by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, is estimated that more than 115 people in the US die every day after experiencing an overdose caused by opioids.

Purdue, so far, has $31 billion in benefits produced by OxyContin, the “nation’s bestselling killer” according to Los Angeles Times and it paid $635 million in fines and fees when it pleaded guilty to federal charges for misbranding the product and mislead doctors about the risks of its addiction.

Source: Washington Post