One would like to think that the reason the company that makes the powerful painkiller OxyContin says it will stop marketing the opioid to doctors is that the county is in the midst of a serious opioid epidemic—a big part of which involves prescription painkillers. More likely, though, it’s because many cities, states and municipalities are suing Big Pharma as their resources are strained in the fight against rampant opioid use and abuse.
On Saturday, Purdue Pharmaceuticals released a statement saying that it had eliminated more than half its sales staff this week and will no longer send sales representatives to doctors’ offices to discuss opioid drugs, CBS News reports. OxyContin has long been the world’s top-selling opioid painkiller, bringing in billions in sales for the privately held company.
OxyContin, released in 1995, produces a heroinlike high when the pills are crushed and snorted or injected. In 2007, Purdue and three executives pleaded guilty and agreed to pay more than $600 million for misleading the public about the risks of OxyContin. But the company kept selling it—and that $600 million was a drop in the bucket compared with what Purdue was raking in.
Purdue and other opioid drugmakers and pharmaceutical distributors may finally be feeling the heat from local and state lawmakers who say that the drugmakers misled doctors and patients about the risks of opioids and encouraged overprescribing.
And the crisis is not just in rural America. Last year, Mayor Ras Baraka of Newark, N.J., sued 11 opioid manufacturers—including Purdue—accusing the companies of deceptive advertising.
“Every aspect of our city has felt the severe ramifications of the opioid epidemic, not just the substantial financial impact, including all the services we provide to residents, including public health, public assistance, law enforcement, emergency care and services for families and children,” the mayor said.
Good for us, except the genie’s already out of the bottle. And most experts say the drug companies will just push the opioids in other countries where there are fewer regulations.