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.
As reported by the Wall Street Journal, Purdue will continue selling the drug, but will no longer send salespeople to doctors' offices to promote it. Purdue will cut its US sales staff by more than half. "Requests for information about our opioid products will be handled through direct communication with the highly experienced health care professionals that comprise our Medical Affairs department".
"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.
This announcement is coming after widespread criticism of the ways drug-makers market addictive painkillers. Because OxyContin was an extended release version of Oxycodone, requiring use only once every twelve hours, many initially believed that it would be less addictive than other narcotics.
The decision by Purdue Pharma comes as the industry battles an avalanche of lawsuits across the nation related to an epidemic of opioid abuse.
Alabama last Tuesday became the latest state to file a lawsuit accusing the private CT company of fueling the US epidemic by misrepresenting the risks and benefits of opioids.
"We would have more success in encouraging cautious prescribing if drug companies stopped promoting aggressive prescribing", he told the Times. It later acknowledged that its promotions exaggerated the safety of the drug and minimized its risk for addiction.
Purdue has denied the allegations in the various lawsuits. It agreed in 2015 to pay $24 million to resolve a lawsuit by Kentucky. He has yet to declare it a national emergency as he pledged to do in August following a recommendation by a presidential commission.