OxyContin manufacturer Purdue Pharma laid off its entire salesforce comprising nearly 220 sales representatives on June 19, 2018 after a long period of enduring severe blows to the company’s brand name in the pharmaceuticals sector. In February this year, the $3 billion private drug maker had laid off nearly 50 percent of its 600-member sales team with the remaining being fired yesterday. The lay-offs came in around the time when the company announced earlier this year that it would no longer be promoting OxyContin to doctors. Purdue Pharma produces addictive opioid OxyContin, responsible for the sky-rocketing spike in overdose fatalities over the years. The pharmaceutical company is alleged to have used deceptive means to downplay the addictive nature of the drug and overstate the long-term use benefits.
Although OxyContin accounted for almost 82 percent of the company’s sales last year, the opioid maker has taken a firm decision to move away from the highly profitable painkiller market in the wake of the ongoing opioid epidemic. “The company will be pursuing new medications and unmet need for patients suffering from cancer and select central nervous system disorders,” said a company spokesperson. Over the years, the company has been accused of running a fraudulent and popular marketing campaign to push their drugs to unsuspecting patients and doctors, which, in turn, rendered the business extremely lucrative. According to Forbes, the Sackler family, which owned Purdue Pharma, was worth $13 billion in 2017.
The company faces more than 1,500 federal and civil lawsuits, alleging unscrupulous prescribing of addictive opioids that led to fatal overdoses. The plaintiffs have accused Purdue Pharma of penetrating into professional medical societies and wielding influence over industry norms to create a pro-opioid discourse. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that physicians writing millions of prescriptions for opioids have fueled the deadly epidemic ravaging the nation. In fact, nearly half of all drug overdose deaths in the U.S. involve a prescription opioid. Additionally, the CDC also reports more than half a million deaths from drug overdose between 2000 and 2015. In fact, 91 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose.
Combating menace of addiction
OxyContin is available in the markets, both in the form of liquid and pills, and is usually prescribed in combination with other drugs, such as ibuprofen and aspirin. Recognized as a Schedule II drug under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), oxycodone is an addictive opioid that may cause severe psychological and physical dependence. Experts claim that rampant opioid abuse is pushing chronic users toward heroin use. The similar chemical structures and the highs of the two substances make heroin a cheaper and perfect substitute for opioids. No wonder the prescription opioid epidemic is swiftly turning into a heroin epidemic. The need of the hour is to expand access to life-saving treatment, which consists of alternative therapies like non-opioid treatments to fight compulsive drug-seeking urges.
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