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Purdue Issues New Plan Following Senator’s Report Regarding Opioid Epidemic

— February 21, 2018

Purdue Issues New Plan Following Senator’s Report Regarding Opioid Epidemic

After being hit with a slew of legal issues, Stamford-based Purdue Pharmaceuticals has made the decision to actively stop marketing OxyContin to physicians.  The drug manufacturer announced that it will cut its sales force by more than half over the next few weeks.

“We have restructured and significantly reduced our commercial operation and will no longer be promoting opioids to prescribers,” Purdue officials said.

The company previously tried to combat its affiliation with the opioid epidemic by issuing several major ad campaigns intended to show its commitment to addiction and overdose prevention, but these efforts were met with complacency from numerous industry experts and public officials.  President Trump issued a public health emergency in October of last year in response to increasing concerns regarding opioid misuse, fueling an increase in finger-pointing to responsible parties.

OxyContin; image courtesy of Be.Futureproof, via Flickr, CC BY-2.0, no changes made.

Purdue also stated it will begin to refer any opioid-related requests and questions from prescribers to its medical affairs department.  Monica Kwarcinski, the head of this department, confirmed all new initiatives and policies would be fully instituted this month.  Despite these efforts, however, Purdue continues to deny the allegations brought against it by several states, noting OxyContin has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

The notorious money-making drug first became available in 1996 and it has since served as Purdue’s bread and butter, bringing in billions of dollars in revenue for the manufacturer.  The product’s patent was originally set to expire in 2013, but by making minor tweaks to the drug’s chemical makeup, Purdue was able to file new patents for the drug thirteen times with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office over the past ten years, extending its selling rights through 2030.

Also, contrary to its most recent efforts amid its litigation issues, Purdue spent many years and big bucks convincing physicians that OxyContin was non-addictive.  In fact, the drug maker paid over $600 million in fines to combat federal and state agencies filing litigation against it, as well as individual users, to settle claims that it falsely marketed OxyContin as safe from addiction and abuse.  Three of the company’s executives pled guilty to criminal charges involving “misbranding.”

Purdue’s new policies were issued one day after a 23-page report published by Senator Claire McCaskill, D-MO, was released indicating drug manufacturers have given more than $10 million to patient advocacy groups and affiliated physicians since 2012 to promote opioid use to individuals as a means to help their chronic pain.  The report analyzed five pharmaceutical companies, including Purdue, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc., Mylan N.V., Depomed, Inc., and Insys Therapeutics, Inc., as well as fourteen patient advocacy groups “working on chronic pain and other opioid-related issues” in the five-year span between 2012 and 2017.

“These groups have issued guidelines and policies minimizing the risk of opioid addiction and promoting opioids for chronic pain, lobbied to change laws directed at curbing opioid use, and argued against accountability for physicians and industry executives responsible for over-prescription and misbranding,” the report states. “Notably, a majority of these groups also strongly criticized 2016 guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that recommended limits on opioid prescriptions for chronic pain – the first national standards for prescription opioids and a key federal response to the ongoing epidemic.”

The report further notes that nearly all health advocacy groups accept funding from drug makers, leading to issues and “concerns regarding the information and initiatives patient advocacy organizations promote.”


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