Figures from the U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that one in four people who received prescriptions to opioid drugs such as Oxycontin struggle with addiction.
About 115 people die in the United States every day from an opioid overdose. As the country continues to battle with an opioid epidemic, one of the largest producers of prescription opioids has made an important marketing decision that may potentially impact the war on addictive drugs.
Restructured Commercial Operation
Purdue Pharma, the drug company behind Oxycontin, said on Saturday that it will stop promoting opioids to physicians and has, in fact, halved its sales force. The decision comes as the drug maker continues to face criticism for marketing addictive painkillers.
The Connecticut-based drugmaker said that it has already reduced its sales representative to 200 and has restructured its commercial operation.The drug company said that its sales representatives will longer visit doctors' offices to promote the company's opioid products.
Purdue's sales representatives will now focus on the Symproic drug designed to treat opioid-induced constipation, and other non-opioid products. Physicians who have opioid-related questions will be directed to Purdue's medical affairs department.
"We have restructured and significantly reduced our commercial operation and will no longer be promoting opioids to prescribers," the company said.
Effects On Opioid Epidemic In The US
Andrew Kolodny, from the Heller School for Social Policy and Management's Opioid Policy Research, said that the impact of Purdue's decision is small but there could be a bigger effect if other opioid makers will stop the aggressive marketing of their products.
"Overall, the impact will be small because the genie is out of the bottle," Kolodny said. "But if other opioid manufacturers would do the same, it would have a bigger effect."
Purdue first introduced Oxycontin in 1985. The drug was marketed as a non-addictive treatment for chronic pain. Users, however, later learned that they could be heroin-like high from the drug by crushing the pills or by injecting or snorting them.
In 2010, the company reformulated Oxycontin so it would be hard to crush. Purdue also stopped selling the original form of the drug. It later acknowledged that its promotions exaggerated the safety of the drug and minimized its risk for addiction.
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.