Maker of Oxycontin to cease marketing efforts to doctors

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A drugmaker says it will no longer market its opioid products in doctors' offices after facing backlash for the way the industry promotes the addictive drugs.

"We have restructured and significantly reduced our commercial operation and will no longer be promoting opioids to prescribers", representatives of Purdue Pharma said in a statement to Bloomberg Friday evening. Doctors with questions about opioids will be directed to the company's medical affairs department.

US deaths linked to opioids have quadrupled since 2000 to roughly 42,000 in 2016, or about 115 lives lost per day. The company has been unable to develop or buy a drug to replace OxyContin's sales.

OxyContin has always been the world's top-selling opioid painkiller, bringing in billions in sales for the privately-held company. "Millions of Americans are now opioid-addicted because the campaign that Purdue and other opioid manufacturers used to increase prescribing worked well". The decision comes as the drug maker continues to face criticism for marketing addictive painkillers.

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Lawsuits have accused Purdue Pharma of being a prime contributor to the current opioid epidemic in the United States through the aggressive marketing of OxyContin. It has said its drugs are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and account for only 2 percent of all opioid prescriptions.

At least 14 states have sued Purdue, and many cities including Greenfield and Springfield in Western Massachusetts. Purdue sold the drug by trying to convince Doctors that previous concerns regarding opioid addiction and abuse had been overdone and resulted in patient pain and discomfort that could have been effectively treated.

Purdue has denied the allegations in the various lawsuits.

Purdue agreed to pay $600 million in 2007 for misleading the public about the risks of using OxyContin. Costs of opioid addiction to the USA economy have been estimated to be as high as $78.5 billion.