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Oxycontin Maker Purdue Pharma Will Stop Marketing the Drug to US Doctors

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OxyContin maker will stop marketing opioid products to doctors amid scrutiny

A pharmacist holds prescription painkiller OxyContin, 40mg pills, made by Purdue Pharma L.D.at a local pharmacy, in Provo, Utah, U.S., April 25, 2017.

Although initially driven by prescription drugs, most opioid deaths now involve illicit drugs, including heroin and fentanyl.

The drugmaker said it will inform doctors on Monday that its sales representatives will no longer visit physician offices to discuss its opioid products.

In a surprise reversal, the maker of the powerful painkiller OxyContin said Saturday that it will stop promoting opioid drugs to doctors. The company will still handle requests from doctors who have questions about drugs such as OxyContin, through its 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. Sales of OxyContin and other opioids have fallen recently amid pressure from regulators, insurers, and the general public. States including Montana, New Jersey, and Alabama, as well as some cities, have sued Purdue, claiming that the opioid epidemic has reduced lifespans and caused massive social and economic damage.

Purdue's promotions exaggerated the drug's safety and risks of addiction, leading to lawsuits and federal investigations.

Purdue said in a statement that it is reducing its sales force by more than 50%.

"We would have more success in encouraging cautious prescribing if drug companies stopped promoting aggressive prescribing", he told the Times.

Purdue has denied the allegations in the various lawsuits.

In 2007, Purdue Pharma and three of its executives pleaded guilty to criminal charges of misrepresenting their product's addictiveness, and paid a total of $635 million in fines. Costs of opioid addiction to the US economy have been estimated to be as high as $78.5 billion.

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