Purdue Pharma will no longer target US doctors in its efforts to sell OxyContin, a prescription opioid whose overprescription fueled America's opioid crisis - and made billions for Purdue's founding family.
"The genie is already out of the bottle", said Dr. Andrew Kolodny, director of opioid policy research at Brandeis University and an advocate for stronger regulation of opioid drug companies. "But if other opioid manufacturers would do the same, it would have a bigger effect". "Even if we save one life due to this decision, it is worth it".
The health insurer Cigna also announced in October it would no longer cover OxyContin through employer-based plans, shortly after the pharmaceutical industry lobby group PhRMA broadly endorsed policies that limit opioid prescriptions to seven days.
"Effective Monday, February 12, 2018, our field sales organization will no longer be visiting your offices to engage you in discussions about our opioid products", Kwarcinski said in the letter, which was released to media outlets.
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The company told employees this week that it would cut its sales force by more than half, to 200 workers.
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.
Doctors with opioid-related questions will be directed to its medical affairs department.
Eventually, Purdue acknowledged that its promotions exaggerated the drug's safety and minimized the risks of addiction.
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The Drug Enforcement Administration "expressed concern that Purdue's aggressive marketing of OxyContin focused on promoting the drug to treat a wide range of conditions to physicians who may not have been adequately trained in pain management", the report states. Opioid litigation increased sharply in 2017 when hundreds of cities, counties and states sued opioid makers, wholesalers, distributors and marketers.
Purdue "vigorously denies" any misconduct, saying it has consistently followed the CDC's opioid guidelines including not recommending opioids as a first option.
Opioids are substances that work on the nervous system in the body or specific receptors in the brain to reduce the intensity of pain.
Opioids were involved in more than 42,000 overdose deaths in 2016, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
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Purdue and three executives pleaded guilty and agreed to pay $634.5 million in civil and criminal fines.