OxyContin has always been the world's top-selling opioid painkiller and generated billions in sales for privately-held Purdue.
"We have restructured and significantly reduced our commercial operation and will no longer be promoting opioids to prescribers", the Stamford, Connecticut-based company said in a statement. Instead, the company said it will direct prescribers to materials published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the office of the USA surgeon general.
OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma LP said on Saturday that it has cut its sales force in half and will stop promoting opioids to physicians, following widespread criticism of the ways that drugmakers market addictive painkillers. Doctors with questions about opioids will be directed to the company's medical affairs department.
The restructuring comes amid lawsuits filed by Ohio, Alabama and Washington attorneys general who allege Purdue has exacerbated the opioid drug addiction crisis through its sale and marketing of OxyContin.
The FDA even approved a package insert for OxyContin, announcing the drug was safer than rival painkillers because the delayed-absorption mechanism was "believed to reduce the abuse liability".
Purdue's decision to entirely stop marketing the drug in the USA comes amid a new wave of legal action, reminiscent of the legal campaign against tobacco companies in the 1990s. Many of those overdoses are attributed to other opioids, including fentanyl and heroin, which OxyContin users often switch to after becoming addicted to the painkiller.
At least 14 states have sued privately held Purdue.
A surge in prescriptions of opioids followed the 1995 release of the drug when about 90 million opioid prescriptions were filled.
Purdue is also facing a federal investigation by the U.S. Attorney's Office in CT.
Purdue Pharma pleaded guilty in 2007 to felony charges for false marketing of OxyContin and paid $635 million as a result. Costs of opioid addiction to the US economy have been estimated to be as high as $78.5 billion.
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