End of an era: Purdue to stop marketing opioids to doctors

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The announcement, first reported by Bloomberg, marks the end of an era for a company that changed the paradigm for opioid use in part through aggressive, in-person marketing to doctors. It will now have about 200 sales representatives, Purdue said.

The prescription pill is the world's top-selling opioid painkiller and has raked in billions for Purdue since it was introduced in 1996.

The company said it is reducing its sales staff by more than half, and that its remaining salespeople will no longer visit doctor's offices to push their product.

He said Purdue's decision is helpful, but it won't make a major difference unless other opioid drug companies do the same.

Eventually, Purdue acknowledged that its promotions exaggerated the drug's safety and minimized the risks of addiction.

The lawsuits say Purdue misled prescribers and the public by marketing opioids as a safe substitute for non-addictive pain medications such as ibuprofen and contributed to an increase in heroin use. Opioid litigation increased sharply in 2017 when hundreds of cities, counties and states sued opioid makers, wholesalers, distributors and marketers.

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Manufacturer Purdue bowed to a key demand of lawsuits that blame the Connecticut-based company for helping trigger the opioid epidemic.

In a surprise reversal, the maker of the powerful painkiller OxyContin said Saturday that it will stop promoting opioid drugs to doctors.

Purdue said in a statement that it "vigorously denies" allegations of misconduct, adding that its products account for only "approximately 2%" of all opioid prescriptions. "Requests for information about our opioid products will be handled through direct communication with the highly experienced healthcare professionals that comprise our Medical Affairs department". Instead, the company said it will direct prescribers to materials published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the office of the US surgeon general.

US deaths linked to opioids have quadrupled since 2000 to roughly 42,000 in 2016, or about 115 lives lost per day. Many of those overdoses are attributed to other opioids, including fentanyl and heroin, which OxyContin users often switch to after becoming addicted to the painkiller.

The company and three executives pleaded guilty in 2007 for misleading the public about the risks of the drug but Oxycontin continued to generate blockbuster sales.

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