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Purdue pulls plug on opioid marketing

Published on 13/02/18 at 09:44am

Purdue Pharma was fined $643.5 million in 2007 for its part in creating the opioid epidemic that has plagued the US for the last decade. The punishment was meted out on the back of a marketing campaign that denied that its Oxycontin product was dangerously addictive.

Fast forward over 10 years and the US is still suffering the catastrophic effects of the opioid crisis. It was calculated that in 2015 alone, the high levels of addiction to opioids cost the economy $504 billion – putting the large fine that Purdue faced firmly in the shadow.

Purdue has now revealed that it is taking more action on its part to reduce prescription of its painkiller to those unsuitable to taking the drug, mainly through slashing the number of its sales force from more than 400 down to 200.

As well as this, the company will ensure that its sales representatives no longer visit doctors regarding its painkillers.

“We have restructured and significantly reduced our commercial operation and will no longer be promoting opioids to prescribers,” the company said in a statement.

The 200 sales staff retained will be used to promote its other products, not related to pain relief. One such product  is Symproic, a treatment for opioid-induced constipation – the ethics of being at least partly responsible for getting many individuals addicted to opioids, only to then profit from this with a treatment for the symptoms created are questionable, to say the least.

Many critics of the company were quick to point out that the damage has already been done and it had already made billions in profits from promoting a product that has destroyed lives across the US.

In addition, the reduction of its sales force and tactic of approaching doctors directly only extends to the US market, with the global company, Mundipharma, not revealing whether it would adopt the same approach in other markets.

More than 60,000 individuals died as a result of drug overdoses in 2016 alone. The problems began with the aggressive marketing of the product but once people became addicted, and the issue was recognised, Purdue reformulated the drug to make it harder to abuse.

This led to many people seeking alternatives, resulting in far more drug deaths due to heroin abuse than the initial addiction to prescription products, which could be managed by the prescribing doctor.

Ben Hargreaves

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